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Chelsea Van Acker has fruit farming in her veins

Like so many members of the next generation in the produce industry, Chelsea Van Acker was born and raised on a farm, so she hasn’t a clue of how to respond to a question like “how long have you been working in the industry?” other than to say “my entire life.”

Today the 27-year-old works in field service for New York Apple Sales in Glenmont, NY.

“My family has been farming for generations in Williamson, NY,” said Van Acker. “More recently my dad is focusing on apples, peaches and tart cherries. Today he farms about 400 acres with a heavy focus on processing apple varieties such as Ida Reds and Romes, as well as tart cherries that are used in the brand CheriBundi — a cherry juice and beverage company in Geneva, NY.”

IMG 3396Chelsea Van Acker with her fiancé, Chris Gowan, in front of Van Acker Farms’ tractor, owned by her family.Recently, her dad also planted the well-known Honeycrisp, Gala and Fuji apples, as well as the SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples that were developed at Cornell University.

“The farm is managed mainly with family labor throughout the growing season until harvest,” explained Van Acker. “My mom and fiancé, Chris Gowan, being the most recent additions.”

From a young age, her favorite activity was riding in her dad’s Peterbilt delivering apples to Mott’s, now Keurig Dr.Pepper, and spending time on the tractor with one of her dad’s sisters.

“My parents have always encouraged me to follow my dreams, but they also wanted me to explore other aspects of the industry,” said Van Acker.

“In high school and college, I scouted for a local company; agr.assistance,” she continued. “Each summer around ten of us would check orchards weekly for pathogens and insects that our boss would then help the growers correct.”

From her experience with agr.assistance, Van Acker took an internship with Dow AgroSciences where she worked on the Spotted Wing Drosophila in the New York and New England regions.

“At the time this pest was new and started to affect local berry growers,” she pointed out. “But is has since become a major pest to all soft fruits, including tart cherries.”

“This internship led me to a full-time job offer with Dow, which I accepted before my senior year,” she added.

She graduated from Cornell University in 2014 with a double major in agricultural sciences and plant science, and a minor in agricultural business.

“Out of excitement, I graduated a semester early to start my first full-time position in Pennsylvania as a sales trainee, while the regular representative was out for an extended maternity leave,” she said. “My focus was on chemical sales for mainly field crops and some fruits and vegetables.”

“From there, Dow Agrosciences decided to relocate me to another division of their company, AgroFresh, where I would be able to fully focus on apples and eventually move back home,” she continued. “My experience with AgroFresh sent me to Grand Rapids, MI, for apple harvest two seasons in a row, and in-between to Yakima, WA.”

From her travels, Van Acker met and worked with some of the best growers and industry members in the apple industry. But she also learned that although the industry