Meet Tom, Stemilt’s Late Founder

Tom Mathison was a pioneer in every sense of the word. Born and raised on Stemilt Hill near Wenatchee, Washington, the third-generation apple, pear and cherry grower founded Stemilt Growers in 1964. He was also a driving force behind bringing Washington-grown fruit to the global marketplace.

Tom took the lead in his family’s small farming business in 1947 after his father’s tragic death. In 1958, he garnered a mere $88 on his 100-ton cherry crop. The disastrous year was the turning point for Tom, inspiring him to change his go-to-market practices. He took control over the quality of his fruit by opening a small packing operation and packing his fruit and a few of his neighbors’ fruit. In 1964, Tom founded Stemilt Growers with the goal of delivering high-quality fruit to people everywhere.

Tom’s innovative thinking positioned Stemilt as an industry leader early on. He was one of the first large organic fruit growers and adopted a sustainability program in 1989. Tom was also the first to put stickers on apples and pack cherries in bags, both of which are the norm today!

Tom’s hard work and dedication to advancing the tree fruit industry earned him great recognition. He was named Cherry King in 1971, received the Silver Apple Award in 1991, was named Apple Man of the Year in 1996 and was Good Fruit Grower of the Year in 2002.

Family was Tom’s greatest joy. Tom shared 58 years with his loving wife, Lorraine, before passing away in 2008. He was the father to three, grandfather to seven and had many great-grandchildren. His legacy of hard work and innovation continues to inspire his family and the entire Stemilt Growers team today.

Watch this video on the life and legacy of our founder, Tom Mathison.