Pheasant Orchards claims to be a fifth generation orcharding family. Jeff Pheasant is the manager of the present day ranch. He is descended from James Pheasant, his great great grandfather, who had orchard in Beatrice, NE.
(in photo to the right-
Grandpa Edward Pheasant, Grandson Jeff Pheasant holding son, Thomas Pheasant, and Father, Tom Pheasant)
In 1901, 14 members of his family (James and his wife; son Ralph and wife; daughter Edna and husband and 3 children and his mother; four younger sons, Frank, John, William, and Clyde) came to Wenatchee, WA by train, a 2 week trip.
James died in 1905. Son Ralph and wife Emma and sons Ed & Charlie went up river to Tonasket and homesteaded in 1907. They planted 5 acres of apples to start, enlarging to 30 acres. Son Edward, also brothers Charlie & Earl, had orchards there.
George & Tom Pheasant, sons of Edward Pheasant, planted orchards in this Ephrata-Soap Lake area (George starting in 1955, and Tom in 1958).
George Pheasant was the original owner of Unit 120 Block 701 and Tom was a second owner of Unit 116 Block 701 of the Columbia Basin Irrigation Project which had opened farm land in 1952.
After graduating from Washington State College in 1950 with a degree in agronomy, George left the family orchard in Tonasket behind to take a position with the extension office in Ephrata. After a couple of years, he realized a desk job wasn't for him, and he purchased some land west of town and planted some row crops.
But George knew best was growing fruit, so even though everyone-including the banker-told him "you can't plant an orchard in the Columbia Basin," he put in an acre of apple trees in 1959.
Brother Tom, fresh out of the Air Force, had followed George to Ephrata, and the Pheasants broke ground for the orchard together. The following year, Tom purchased some land in the Westmont Acres area and put in his own trees. The brothers formed a partnership in 1961, called Basin View Orchards.
For over 55 years, apples have been at the core of the
.George & Tom Pheasant were partners in Basin View Orchards. Later, George's daughter, Kathy Buhl & husband Don, leased part of the orchard, also George's other daughter Mary Mantz, and her husband Rob, leased another part of the orchard. Tom's son, Jeff began leasing orchard in 1998.
In the early years, George (wife Jackie) and Tom (wife Dolores) Pheasant were able to lease ground for the cost of water and taxes; the money they would have spent on land went towards buying trees, as did the proceeds from the brother's bean crop. The larger trees were spaced 40 feet by 20 feet apart, for a total of 72 trees per acre. The newer, smaller varieties can be planted 10 feet apart, allowing orchardists to triple or even quadruple the number of trees per acres.
The Fruit Stand was built in the late 1960's as a community service. The Fruit Stand was often operated on the honor system. Customers would weigh their own boxes and put the money in a container. Even today, on the days when there isn't an attendant, the stand continues to operate on a "honor system" which says a lot about our customers! "We never had a problem doing it this way," Darla Grubb says, "People always pay what they took...a lot of honesty out there!"
Presently, people from as far as Seattle, and Montana come yearly to get Pheasant pears & apples. "People tell us we should move the fruit stand out to the main road, but we're not like those other fruit stands that rely on impluse traffic, by now, we're getting second and third generation of families, and it's such a treat to see the kids' faces light up when they choose their own apples."