Nov 7, 2022From the orchard to TikTok
‘Apple Girl’ educates about life on family farm
A Washington farm girl has become an agricultural spokeswoman, posting about her experiences on her family’s apple and pear farm to thousands of social media followers. Kaitlyn Thornton is dedicated to changing the way people view agriculture.
Known as “Apple Girl,” the 20-year-old, fourth-generation orchardist and Washington State University sophomore majoring in marketing is set on closing the gap between growers and consumers.
Thornton wants to burst the stereotype of farmers being older white men wearing overalls and straw hats.
“My mission is to show people the light side of agriculture in a way that it is, but also to educate people,” she said. “My mission is to show all these different sides of farming, not just being a farmer’s daughter, like the country song, and not only being a woman in ag. I want to show people things like being transparent and what resonates with people.”
See Kaitlyn Thornton’s posts on:
- LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/kaitlynthornton2021/
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/kaitlynjillthornton/?hl=en
- TikTok: www.tiktok.com/@katyjthornton02
With most Americans disconnected from agriculture, giving typical consumers a connection to the industry is important to Thornton. Through short videos on TikTok and other social media, she highlights farming practices, including how an apple grows.
“Our job as producers, as 2% of the nation, is to come forward and tell our stories,” Thornton said. “We have a unique lifestyle. There is so much human involvement with our food. It’s not impersonal, like some corporation.
“There are real lives being invested into the products that we grow or raise as farmers.”
There are endless opportunities to promote agriculture, and the inability to produce glamorous “Super Bowl-type” content should not be an obstacle, Thornton said.
“Just start showing content out there,” Thornton said. “People don’t want to be spoon-fed information. They just want the story and want to feel connected. I hope my videos can be an example and encourage other growers to tell their stories.”
Early business acumen
Thornton grew up in Tonasket, a north-central Washington town of about 1,000 people 21 miles from the Canadian border. As a child, the principal job that she and her older brother and sister had was picking and packing apricots and Bartlett pears, which they sold to a grocery store 60 miles away.
Geoff Thornton, Thornton’s father, told her he would be impressed if she sold 20 cartons. A couple of days before she turned 16, Thornton posted an ad on social media and delivered the fruit on a meet-up basis. She sold 44 boxes of apricots.
Kaitlyn Thornton discovered she enjoyed learning about her community and its people, and selling a product she actually believed in. In all, she sold 400 cartons that first year, establishing fruit delivery business Kait’s Crates when she was a high school sophomore. As a high school senior, she sold more than 1,200 cartons.
Thornton learned a lot from her family and the difficulties that farming can place on its members. Her great-grandfather Roy, a truck driver who grew up during the Great Depression, was the first of eight children to go to college after being a decorated combat medic in World War II. Roy became a doctor and tried to build a better life for his family. Over the years, Thornton Farms declined, until 1986 when Geoff Thornton took over and began buying back farmland, expanding the orchard from 27 acres to about 440 acres.
In high school, Kaitlyn Thornton joined her father on a retail tour with Chelan Fresh’s CEO promoting the new Sugarbee apple, sparking an interest in marketing. Visiting stores on the East Coast and in Arkansas and Texas, Thornton enjoyed meeting shoppers, telling her story and being able to show consumers what a farmer was really like.
As Thornton’s ag advocacy grew, so did her number of social media followers. On TikTok, her fan base grew from 30,000 followers to 260,000. She also has 24,000 followers on Instagram.
“We have a great story to tell,” Thornton said. “I put myself and my family out there and encourage other growers to do the same. Just showing up and being a positive source of information consumers can look to and feel good about buying their fruit will do.”
— Doug Ohlemeier, assistant editor
Top photo: Washington apple and pear grower Geoff Thornton and his daughter Kaitlyn Thornton during apple harvest. When Kaitlyn Thornton was in high school, she picked apples and sold them to grocery stores, a background that’s led to her agriculture advocacy to dispel misinformation about farming.
Bottom photo: Kaitlyn Thornton, a 20-year-old Washington State University sophomore majoring in marketing, uses social media to educate about life on a family farm. PHOTOS: Courtesy Kaitlyn Thornton.