Washington State University student Kaitlyn Thornton wants you to know that the “dust” on the apples in her family’s orchard is actually a natural clay mixture sprayed on to prevent sun damage.
She holds up an imperfect apple and says it will taste just as good as a perfect one, with the benefit of preventing food waste.
And she demonstrates how to test an apple’s finish by rubbing it against her lips.
It’s all in a day’s work — well, more like a couple years work — for “the apple girl,” a TikTok and Instagram influencer who is explaining agriculture to a generation she says has become disconnected from the food they eat.
The education comes with personality and fun, and her formula has been a success. Thornton has 280,000 followers on TikTok and 69,000 on Instagram. She’s collaborated with apparel companies and country music artist Granger Smith.
Her most viral video has 6.4 million views, and Cougs will love to hear that she’s wearing a WSU t‑shirt in it.
Thornton joins a growing cadre of WSU influencers on social media, including assistant professor of economics Christopher Clarke and medical student Joel Bervell, who explains racial disparities in medicine.
She’s motivated by a desire to help the agriculture industry as well as her family’s orchard of 440 acres of apple and pear trees near the Canadian border in Tonasket, Washington, she said.
She thinks people have misconceptions about farming because they have fewer connections to growing and harvesting food than existed even 50 years ago.
“I’ve gone to the East Coast and talked to consumers in grocery stores, and they say, ‘apples grow on trees?’” she noted.
“I feel like people don’t understand there are real people, real families behind the fruit we grow, and that every time they buy a piece of fruit they’re supporting something good,” Thornton said.
A junior in WSU’s Carson College of Business, she wants to build a career in marketing and advocacy after she graduates. She’s already doing social media consulting for other companies and interned with the marketing co‑op that handles her family’s produce. She’s been featured on agriculture websites and in the trusted Farmer’s Almanac.
A future goal is to convert a family warehouse in Tonasket into a destination where people could learn about the industry and get a meal.
“I figure if I have big enough dreams something will happen,” she said.
Thornton has already proved her business chops by selling boxes of fruit over Facebook Marketplace, a venture she called Kait’s Crates. It helped fund her college education.
Said Thornton, “I always say if there’s an open door, I’m going to walk through it.”