Mike Wade

Mike Wade joined his father at Columbia Fruit Packers in 1979 when the company was preparing to grow with additional packing shifts and development of the Columbia Marketing International partnership.  Mike became general manager of Columbia Fruit in the early 1980s.  

In addition to packing its own conventional and organic apples and cherries, Columbia Fruit Packers provides packing and storage services for approximately 100 local growers.

Mike and his wife, Karen, are also known for their highly praised wine they create and market through Fielding Hills winery.  Fielding Hills publically released its first vintage in 2002 and soon developed a following from wine enthusiasts from across the state.

The Wade family was an early supporter of the foundation joining together with the McDougall, Glady Bellamy and Nick Buak families to create the CCM scholarship to provide access to education for their employees’ families.  Annually two new students are selected for this scholarship.  The CCM scholarship covers nearly the entire cost of tuition, books, room & board for four years.

In addition to his involvement in WAEF, Mike has served the industry as the chairman of the US Apple Association, chairman of the Northwest Horticultural Council, and as a board member on both the Washington State Fruit Commission and Northwest Fruit Exporters.  He was honored as the 2016 Apple Man of the Year at the US Apple Association conference in Chicago this fall.

Mike and Karen have three girls: Robin, Megan and Jennie, and one grandchild, Colton.  They raised their family in East Wenatchee.

Dee Gargus

Dee Gargus and his brother, Mathias, started D&M (Moxee) in 1997 to serve hop and fruit growers.  The two each obtained their degrees from CWU with Dee focused on business administration and Mathias on agriculture. 

Their company began with two employees and has since grown to 45 with consultants working with virtually all of the crops grown in the region.

Dee shares, “We built our business on service and continue to cultivate younger generations that want to remain in our industry.” 

Alma Arias

Alma Arias is the Human Resources Manager for Kershaw Companies/Domex.  She began in this role soon after her graduation from Central Washington University in 2011 with a major in Business Administration and an emphasis in human resources.

Kershaw Companies offers two scholarships through WAEF for children of their employees.  Alma began working with the foundation to increase awareness of their awards internally and quickly became engaged in other areas of the foundation’s work.  As a recent college graduate, she had a unique perspective on the role of scholarships in funding higher education.

 Alma was one of the first members to join the then forming WAEF student stewardship committee and began providing resources to students on the importance of crafting resumes to their target audience.  In addition to contributions to the student stewardship committee, Alma serves on the WAEF scholarship selection committee.

 Alma was raised in the Yakima area.  She has a daughter that attends Eisenhower High School.

Ed & Lane Eckberg

Ed & Layne Eckberg began their adventure as apple growers in the early 1970s in an area of the Lake Chelan valley called “Boyd District”.  For many years they split their time between work and raising children in the Seattle area with cultivating their growing acres. 

 Soon after their children graduated from high school they relocated to Manson and dedicated themselves as full-time fruit farmers.  The Eckbergs officially retired last year.

 Ed & Layne have three daughters and seven grandchildren.  They recently completed a new home designed with space in mind for their children and grandchildren.  They have been married for 57 years.

Sean Gilbert

Sean Gilbert is a fifth generation member of Gilbert Orchards.  The company grows and packs apples, nectarines, pears, apricots and peaches.

 Sean is the General Manager of Gilbert Orchards having worked in multiple aspects of the business before assuming that role.  Sean was raised in the Yakima Valley graduating from Eisenhower High School prior to studying history at Pomona College.

 Sean became involved with WAEF soon after his return to the area.  He was recruited to the board of directors in 2006 and served in that role until 2015.  As a member of the board, Sean was involved in resource development and the scholarship selection committee, a group he chaired for multiple years.  He continues his role on the Student Stewardship Committee.

 Additionally, Sean is a member of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association board of directors, WSU’s Tree Fruit Endowment Advisory Committee, and the apricot marketing committee of the Washington State Fruit Commission.

 Sean and his wife, Anna, are raising three little children; daughters four and two, and a ten-month old little boy.

Emily Bautista-Herdt

Emily Bautista-Herdt is the commercial manager for AgroFresh.  Emily joined the company in 2006 and is based in their Wenatchee office.

Emily was introduced to WAEF several years ago when we brought in a student for an information interview and tour at AgroFresh.  She helped orchestrate the event and inquired after about additional ways to get involved and help students.  Emily is a member of our scholarship selection committee and is a frequent volunteer at the foundation’s golf tournaments and scholarship luncheons.

Emily is a graduate of the tree fruit management program at Wenatchee Valley College.  She is currently a member of the Washington Ag Forestry leadership program. 

Emily and her husband, Tim, have two daughters.


Nate Rubio

Nate Rubio began his relationship with WAEF in 2002 when he received a scholarship to attend Eastern Washington University.  Nate and his siblings were raised in Brewster where his parents still reside.

Three years ago Nate was reintroduced to WAEF at the Washington State Horticultural Association Annual Meeting in Wenatchee.  He had recently been hired as a human resources manager for Washington Fruit & Produce Company in their orchard operations.  A co-worker of Nate’s was serving on our scholarship selection committee and thought Nate might be an asset to the process.  Not long into the conversation it surfaced he has been assisted by WAEF donors.

Nate obtained his degree in HR Management and a few years later his MBA and MPA from EWU.  His job at Washington Fruit now includes management of the H2A program, assistance with food safety and multiple aspects of HR.  He works out of the company’s Royal City office.

His involvement with WAEF has expanded to now include service on the Student Stewardship Committee.   He is one of our inaugural year Alumni Association members.