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Fourth-generation Stemilt grower Kyle Mathison, Stemilt President West Mathison, Christian Schiller of Cascadia Capital and Stemilt Sales Leader Tate Mathison. Seattle Business magazine honored the Mathison family and Stemilt Growers Nov. 3 with the Family Legacy Award at the 2011 Washington Family Business Awards.

Seattle Business magazine honored the Mathison family of Stemilt Growers with its Family Legacy Award at the 2011 Washington Family Business Awards ceremony held Thursday, Nov. 3, in Seattle. Stemilt is in the second group of companies to receive the award.

In a Nov. 8 press release, John Levesque, managing editor of Seattle Business magazine, said that Stemilt was selected by a group of independent judges to receive this year’s Legacy Award because the company “exhibits characteristics of a progressive, forward-looking family business over multiple generations.”

Two generations of Mathisons were on hand to accept the award on the company’s behalf, including Stemilt President West Mathison, his brother and Sales Leader, Tate Mathison, and their father and fourth-generation farmer, Kyle Mathison.

“It’s an honor to receive the Legacy Award,” West Mathison said in the release. “This is a tribute to the hard work and perseverance of three generations before us and especially that of my late grandfather and Stemilt founder, Tom Mathison. We are very blessed to be able to follow in their footsteps and will continue to do all that we can to build off of their great legacy.”

Stemilt joined seven other companies as recipients of the second annual Washington Family Business Awards. The other winners were Hillcrest Bakery of Bothell, WA, small company winner; Rainier Connect of Tacoma, WA, midsize company winner; Hotstart of Spokane, WA, large company winner; Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants of Seattle, community involvement award; Nelson Legacy Group of Redmond, WA, best practices award; Mercer Canyons Inc. of Prosser, WA, business transformation award; and Wallace Properties of Bellevue, WA, leadership award winner. Cascadia Capital was the presenting sponsor of this year’s awards event with Badar Martin, Chase Commercial Banking and Comcast Business Class as signature sponsors.

The Mathison family has a history of farming in eastern Washington that dates back to 1893, when the first generation homesteaded 160 acres atop Stemilt Hill, a high-elevation region overlooking Wenatchee, WA. By 1914, Thomas Cyle Mathison (first generation) began planting apple, pear and cherry orchards on Stemilt Hill, recognizing that the region’s moderate climate and volcanic soils offered ideal growing conditions for tree fruit. In 1947, Tom Mathison took the lead in the family’s farming business, which at that time was barely making enough money to cover costs. In an effort to turn the business around, he sought new cherry harvest methods and began packing his own fruit as well as fruit produced by other local growers. He founded Stemilt Growers in 1964 with the goal of delivering high-quality fruit to consumers worldwide.

Over the next three decades, Stemilt gradually expanded its operations and evolved into a leader in the tree fruit industry. In 2005, Tom passed the presidency to his grandson, West Mathison. Today, the family-owned-and-operated company is a leading supplier of sweet cherries and among the larger organic tree fruit suppliers in the nation.

Port Blakely Cos. of Seattle was the first-ever recipient of the Family Legacy Award in 2010. René Ancinas, its chief executive officer, gave a keynote address during the 2011 awards event. As the recipient of this year’s Family Legacy Award, the Mathisons will be featured in the December 2011 issue of Seattle Business magazine, which will be published in late November.