The Oyler Family
Traesure Apple Ranch
While the aspiration for a family-owned business was always present in their 'someday maybe' plans, a tragic event in 2016 precipitated this significant decision. Trae Oyler, the youngest son of Kenny and Jane Oyler, was randomly shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Yakima, Washington (while standing in an apple orchard of all places).
The family found a way to honor Trae's memory by involving him in their orchard-owning journey, bestowing their new venture with his name and featuring his artwork in the company logo.
But how in the world did the Oyler family end up owning an orchard? Well, long story short, when Kenny Oyler saw that the orchard next door was for sale, what began with considering whether to buy 30 acres, eventually became, what if we bought the whole thing? Tragedy can tear a family apart, but it can also bring them closer together.
The Oyler family has been running the orchard for three years now. They’ve had their ups and downs, but remain resolute in achieving their vision. Their aspiration is not just to have a family-owned and operated business, but to create a legacy.
Our immediate objective is self-sufficiency and rejuvenation. Some sections of the land, initially intended for residential development, have been somewhat neglected over the years. This neglect has led to an overgrowth of weeds and an influx of groundhogs. As a result, we've been concentrated on rejuvenating the land, replacing some of the older trees, managing the groundhog population, and updating our equipment, some of which dates back to the 1970s and even earlier.
In addition, our plans for the immediate future include introducing peaches and disease-resistant hazelnuts to our produce range. Rutgers University has developed a strain of hazelnut trees resistant to a particular disease native to the East Coast, and we've already planted five acres of these trees to see how they fare.
Looking forward, our long-term aspiration is to not only grow the business but to create a family and community-friendly destination with a direct-to-consumer outlet for our produce, a bakery, and a coffee shop (Trae always wanted a coffee shop).
In the orchard business, the concept of short and long-term takes on a different meaning compared to the electrical business I was previously engaged in. In this sector, the fruits of our labor, quite literally, are often years in the making. As a result, our strategic planning also takes into consideration potential opportunities for the younger generation of our family, who may wish to join the business in the future.
When we took over the orchard, we asked the previous owners and employees how they kept track of things. For the harvest, they were using a duplicating paper system to keep track of the fruit. Essentially, someone was tasked with walking around the orchard, tagging bins, and then checking the bins again when they were full, and giving the picker their part of the bin tag.
We were told that during harvest, it was basically bin tagging from sunup to sundown, and then you went home to fill out sheets for the next day. It all seemed highly labor-intensive and time-consuming.
Considering the fact that I was relatively new to the industry (two years ago, I wasn't even aware there were different types of apples!), we felt there must be a more efficient way to handle bin tagging. We were looking for a solution that could help us tag bins on the spot, and eliminate the need for someone to walk around the orchard multiple times a day and work extra hours into the night during harvest season.
This led us to Hectre. The Hectre app essentially offered everything we were looking for. It kept track of hours, logged the number of bins per person, and enabled us to double-check information with the pickers. So, in essence, our choice of Hectre came down to its efficiency and compatibility with our needs for managing the harvest process.
We use Hectre’s Scout module for orchard management tasks such as repairs and to keep on top of pests. Even though I'm still learning to identify tree diseases and insect problems, Scout has still been instrumental in our day-to-day operations. The module is very handy for logging items like groundhog holes, animal sightings, dead trees, and any other issues that need addressing.
Outside of the harvest season, the Scout module is my second most-used Hectre module, after Timesheets & Payroll. Whether I'm driving around the orchard and spot an issue, or need to make a note during our weed spraying operations, Scout comes in handy multiple times a day. Its geolocation feature is particularly beneficial as it allows us to precisely pinpoint and return to specific locations.
With 130 acres teeming with trees, it's all too easy to lose track of problem areas. With Scout, if something looks amiss, but I can't quite put my finger on it, I can tag the location and return with someone more experienced for a more in-depth investigation. Scout is especially useful when dealing with our most significant problem—groundhogs.
Groundhogs are our number one pest issue. They dig holes in our rows, eat around the bark of young trees, or eat the roots from underneath, which can kill the tree. They also pose a significant hazard and risk to equipment. I learned this the hard way when a tractor I was driving fell into a sizable groundhog hole. Thanks to Scout and its geo-tagging feature, we can effectively mark and manage these problem areas, improving our control over these pests.
The Timesheets and Payroll Module also streamlines our payroll process, as all the necessary information is conveniently stored within the Hectre app, greatly reducing administrative effort and increasing accuracy
With Hectre’s Harvest Module, bin tagging isn’t daunting, it’s a breeze. Typically, we process between 80 and 200 bins per day, depending on the tree size. The Hectre app enables us to tag all the bins within four to six hours and we no longer need a dedicated person for bin tagging – it's a task we can handle alongside our regular duties. From what we've learned about how the bin tagging process was done before, it's clear that Hectre’s Harvest module brings significant improvements in efficiency.
Hectre’s Insights and Reports Module provides us with a quick and easy way to get an overview of our operations. It facilitates efficient management and informed decision-making by providing easy access to a wide range of valuable data. For instance, it comes in handy when I need to determine the trucks required to pick up the apples or to check that every bin has been correctly tallied according to the bins we've tagged.
The module eliminates the need for time-consuming tasks, like driving through the orchard or flying a drone over to locate a missing bin that's been tagged but isn't on the loading dock. In essence, whether it’s Insights & Reports, Harvest, Scout, or Timesheets & Payroll, the most significant benefit of the Hectre app is the time it saves us.