Tonnemaker Hill Farm:

Our farm, as it exists today, is the result of the vision and sweat of five generations. George and Cora Tonnemaker came to Washington and planted an orchard on Knights' Hill near Buena in the Yakima Valley in 1903. Their son, Orland farmed, taught agriculture classes and worked as an agricultural extension agent throughout Central Washington. While helping to lay out farm units in the new Columbia Basin Irrigation Project he determined to purchase the land which is now Tonnemaker Hill Farm located on the north slope of the Frenchman Hills northeast of Royal City, Washington. Orland and his wife Pearl purchased the land in 1962. Orland believed that this undeveloped land would be perfect for an orchard that could be passed down to future generations. He and Pearl, though past 60 years of age, built a farm from the light soil, sagebrush and rock of the Frenchman Hills.

Today, few of the farm units in the irrigation project remain with the families that first farmed the virgin ground. The physical and financial hardships of farming this new ground derailed the dreams of most of those pioneers. Orland and Pearl had the advantage of an extended family willing and able to help. Their son, Gene, spent much of his free time helping in the early years. Gene and his wife, Joyce, had two sons, Kole and Kurt, who spent much of their spring and summer vacation time working the farm also. The whole family, including Gene, his wife and sons, Genes' sister, Nadine, Nadine’s daughter Sandy and Sandy's husband Art, would often converge for fruit harvest. Orland and Pearl also relied on the Smith family who farmed close by and became like family. Through the grace of God and with the hard work and frugality of Orland and Pearl, the farm survived the difficult early years.

Orland’s dream was to plant a cherry orchard to leave as a legacy. He and Pearl planted the first orchard on the north slope of the Frenchman Hills. The self anointed experts of the day proclaimed that the North Slope was too cold with too short of a growing season for an orchard. Orland remained steadfast in his belief [read more]