view current print edition




Darby Jones thrives on a challenge

Darby Jones, former communications manager for the Washington State Horticulture Association, has something in common with technology tycoon Bill Gates: they both retired on the same day.

But the 27-year-old Quincy, WA, resident hasn't let this brush with near fame go to her head. The Produce News caught up with Ms. Jones -- who was eight months pregnant earlier this summer -- shortly after she left HORT. Ms. Jones was decorating the nursery for the arrival of infant Bridget Jones with apple tree wall paper and fuzzy barnyard friends.

"It came together nicely. Some people think I'm crazy," said Ms. Jones of the wallpaper choice. "But I love it." With final touches in the nursery, Ms. Jones and husband, Greg, were heading to Cannon Beach, OR, to celebrate their first wedding anniversary and the coming birth, which they aptly dubbed a "babymoon." The Joneses were a couple for eight years before getting hitched.

Baby Bridget, the first child of Darby and Greg Jones, is now safely nestled among the trees and animals. She will, no doubt, have quite a few things to put down in a diary of her own one day. Count on the fact that she will come to cherish the long and strong line of women from whom she is descended who continue to be committed to family and the field of agriculture.

Ms. Jones -- who joined her husband in the family business, Jones Produce -- is shored up by generations of women who preceded her and a family tree deeply rooted in agriculture. It all started with family progenitor Al Countryman, Ms. Jones' great-great grandfather, who farmed in north-central Washington. His daughter, Eva "got sick of the city" and married George Zahn. Their son Bruce and his wife Lola were inspirational to Ms. Jones.

"They taught me to respect people," she said. Lola "is one amazing person." Ms. Jones' mother, Terri, who is married to Zahn Orchards owner Bruce Zahn, comes from a long line of dry land farmers.

Then there is Darby, who is living proof that work and motherhood can be mutually inclusive. "I think of the family business as a well-built house," she said. "You also have to have strong foundations to make decisions."

When Ms. Jones left HORT, she said the hardest part was leaving behind her work family. "I loved what I did at HORT. The right decisions aren't always the easiest decisions." She was 22 years old when she started working there. "We were like the microcosm of the industry. These kinds of organizations bring minds together." Interestingly, grandfather George Zahn was one of the organization's past presidents.

HORT, said Ms. Jones, was a great place to learn about the complexities of the industry and get exactly the kind of foundation she needed to move forward. With her commitment to family business in all its various shades and complexities, Ms. Jones said she knows her decision was sound. "My heart really is in family farming."

Jones Produce is highly diversified with interests in apples, pears, cherries, blueberries, grapes, potatoes, onions and row crops. Ms. Jones finds the diversity appealing, saying it takes one quality to make things happen: passion.

"I do my best when I'm busy," she said. This is something of an understatement for the young woman who loves to garden, cook -- "I'm not very good at it, but I enjoy cooking" -- travel, plan vacations and just have some quality down time with friends and family.

For now, Ms. Jones said that she is content to know that her own family's foundation is unshakable.