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Simpsons celebrate 100th harvest with a barbecue

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Gathering to enjoy a barbecue lunch provided by Simpson Brothers Farms last Friday are (L-R) Angel Milinez, Ana and Greg Hurn and Marilyn Harris. Milinez and Mr. Hurn are employees of the farm, which celebrated its 100th harvest this year.

MABTON - The Simpson family has been farming just outside Mabton for 100 years and last Friday hosted a barbecue for employees of the farm.

Doug Simpson said his grandfather, Alex, was an immigrant from Scotland, and was the first generation to farm the land in 1910.

At the age of 19 his grandfather went to work for Standard Oil on the east coast, but moved to California after a while. He found his way to the Moxee Valley where he began working in the hops fields.

When Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District started bringing water to the land near Mabton, Alex purchased a parcel in the area of what is now Phillips and Simpson Road.

"Many of the roads around here are named after the first homesteaders," said Simpson.

Simpson's grandfather Alex and his wife Katie raised four boys and two girls on the land near Mabton. The couple's son, George, stayed on the family homestead and one of his brothers branched out near Toppenish.

George, said Simpson, fathered two boys and a girl. They include Doug, John and Jean. The boys ventured out, going to college, before returning home to Mabton.

Over time, the family's farm grew and in the 1970s Doug and John began helping with the family farm.

"At one time, the farm included mint, sugar beets, wheat and corn...we grow mint, silage corn, grapes and cherries now," said Simpson.

He said there was a period of time when mint was not among the crops grown by Simpson Brothers Farms because disease plagued many of the Lower Valley mint crops. It was in the early 1990s when the brothers began farming the crop again.

"It was after we had bad luck farming potatoes," Simpson said.

In the 1990s, the family rotated the mint crop with wheat, corn and dry beans.

In the 1980s the family expanded its holdings to include grapes. The Simpsons grow Concords for juice.

"It began with a small plot and as the farm grew, we purchased vineyards surrounding the farm," Simpson said.

He said it was 10 years ago the family ceased growing dry beans and wheat. At the time, a dairy sprung up nearby and the family decided to grow forage crops to serve the dairy farm.

Cherries are a new venture, Doug and his son Todd said.

"This year we grew enough cherries to bake a pie," the younger Simpson said jovially.

The cherry trees are still young and the Simpsons are learning the techniques for producing a good crop, Todd Simpson said.

He helps with the family business, serving as the repairman. The younger Simpson learned how to repair equipment and has his own farm equipment repair business.

But, he takes time out each year during harvest, driving a chopper for the corn silage.

About five years ago, Todd Simpson, wanting to help further, came up with the idea of hosting a harvest celebration barbecue for employees of the farm.

As the years passed, it was pointed out 2010 is the 100th harvest for the Simpson family.

"So, we celebrate with the employees...without them our success wouldn't be possible," Simpson said.

Reflecting on the past, he said there have been many changes. He remembers his father farming with a horse team and a John Deere B.

"Now we have tractors and equipment with air conditioning," said Simpson.

"And GPS," the younger Simpson chimed in.

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