Success of the program
"I learned the why of the orchard practices. For example: why we train trees. Now that I know, I can apply what I learned on a daily bass. I also feel more confident to communicate in English and Spanish." - Andrés Martinez, Crown Royal Orchard, Royal City
"This program has been a vehicle for some of our employees to acquire the technical expertise necessary to achieve key positions within our organizations. I have seen employees move from irrigators to crew bosses and to orchard managers." - Darin Case, Dovex Fruit, Wenatchee
WVC HOEEP: Growing Opportunities
Carlos Silva commuted from Othello to Wenatchee Valley College once a week for the Hispanic Orchard Employee Education Program (HOEEP). He learned how to translate a letter from Spanish to English, to identify the parts of a flower in English, and to solve math story problems and equations involving time. These were his efforts to strengthen his math and English skills so that he could better communicate with his employees at King Fuji orchards, a 2,000-acre apple and grape orchard in Mattawa.
HOEEP increases the professional abilities of agriculture employees and their contributions to operations through greater understanding of horticulture science, current production technology, English language and communication skills, math and computer skills, and cultural and social systems. Seven 19-credit programs are available through HOEEP: basic and advanced horticulture, integrated pest management technician, farm management, introduction to viticulture and advanced viticulture, and vineyard management.
HOEEP was designated as an I-BEST program in 2013; however, the program was based on I-BEST principles prior to its designation. I-BEST, which stands for Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training, pairs two instructors in the classroom—one to teach college-level academic or technical content, the other to teach basic skills in reading, math, writing or the English language. In HOEEP, professors Leo Garcia and Francisco Sarmiento take turns teaching the most current agriculture technology and management skills, and applicable basic skills concepts.
HOEEP courses are designed to take place in between busy seasons in order to be the least disruptive to students’ work schedules. For some of the programs, students are in the classroom one day a week for seven hours of instruction. For others, such as viticulture, instruction takes place in industry and employer partner facilities, and orchards—including Stemilt Management, Zirkle, Northern Fruit, MacDougal Orchards and Gebbers Farms—and vineyards, such as Anjolina Farms, Columbia Crest, Canoe Ridge, Mercer Canyon, Shaw Vineyards, Milbrandt and Jones Fruit. The Integrated Pest Management Technician program is the only course that takes place during the growing season so that students can study insects and diseases.
Between 80 to 100 students complete the program annually, and over 1,300 workers have been trained since the program began at WVC in 1993.
Both students and employers have praised the benefits of the program. Darin Case of Dovex Fruit in Wenatchee said, “This program has been the vehicle for some of our employees to acquire the technical expertise necessary to achieve key positions within our organizations. I have seen employees move from irrigators to crew bosses and to orchard managers.”
HOEEP and its instructors have received industry, state and national recognition, including the second-best worker incumbent program in the nation by the Department of Labor. In 2013, the program was featured as a best practices educational session at the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) Leadership Congress in Seattle. That same year, Leo and Francisco earned the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers Industry Service award.
Leo cites three reasons for the success of the program: “The employer allows the student to come to school, the enthusiasm and desire of the student, and the enthusiasm of the instructor. The three of them together create a strong bond.”