John Farmer, wine ambassador
Considered an ambassador for the Washington wine industry, John Farmer, manager at Alder Ridge Vineyard, will be remembered by industry members for his tireless efforts to have clean planting stock available for Washington State vineyardists. He died in September, at the age of 54, at his home in Grandview.
Farmer played a key role in the industry’s plant improvement program by serving on the foundation block steering committee and providing industry input to the reinvigorated grape foundation block recently planted at Washington State University’s research center in Prosser. He was also a strong supporter of Washington State’s Horse Heaven Hills American Viticultural Area approved last year and helped develop the industry’s new viticulture sustainable program called Vinewise.
“He was a real ambassador for the wine industry,” said friend and neighbor Paul Champoux, chair of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers. “What he learned, he shared with others and spread the good word.”
For the last eight years, Farmer managed the Alder Ridge Vineyard in Paterson owned by Corus Brands and Winemakers LLC. He supervised the planting and testing at the 800-acre vineyard of more than ten different clones and a diverse list of Rhone and Mediterranean varietals. He dealt with more than 30 different winemakers, selling grapes to some of the top names in Pacific Northwest wineries.
“John was a forward-thinking ambassador to the Washington wine industry,” said Icon Estates’ Colin Morrell. “He treated all winemakers as special customers whether they were big or small. He was a loyal friend, and loving and generous father to his two daughters.”
Born in Massachusetts, Farmer received his master’s degree from Washington State University in horticulture, according to his obituary. He worked as director for the Benton County Noxious Weed Board before joining Alder Ridge.
Farmer died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, reported the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office. Champoux said that Farmer learned in early August he had terminal cancer. He leaves two daughters and fiancée Sandi Buchmann.
Washington apples from China?
China has been shipping Red Delicious to export markets.
The Washington Apple Commission believes it has thwarted a European importer’s plans to import Chinese Red Delicious apples and sell them in Europe as “Washington apples from China.”
Dave Carlson, president of the Apple Commission, believes that the importer’s rationale was that the nursery stock came from a Washington State nursery. He did not believe that any Washington companies were involved in the marketing of the fruit.
Carlson was alerted to the scheme by an article on the on-line news service FreshPlaza. The article stated that a Dutch importer, Euro Pacific, was expecting a container of “Washington apples from China.”
It continued: “The Washington apple from China is an apple with an intense red colour, due to the good light conditions. The Washington apple is the earliest apple crop in China. Therefore, these apples will be replaced by Fuji apples shortly.”
The article stated that the importer expected the price to be between 9 and 10 euros (U.S.$11.34 to 12.60) for a 10-kilo (22-pound) carton. The apples would be sold across Europe, with about 30 percent going to the Netherlands.
George Smith, the commission’s representative in Europe, contacted the importer to warn him that it would be a violation of the Washington apple trademark, which the commission still enforces around the world.
“He indicated he’s going to change his mind, and they won’t be marketed as Washington apples,” Carlson said. “In England, you have a fairly legitimate court system, and I’m sure we would be successful and get damages.”
The apples appear to be similar to Chinese Redchief Red Delicious apples that were sold in Indonesia last year disguised as Washington apples. They were in boxes with counterfeit lids marked “Top Red,” which is the Evans Fruit Company label. Carlson said the importer who handles Evans Fruit’s apples in Indonesia complained when another importer began bringing in the counterfeit Top Red apples and taking his business. The Chinese apples were comparable to a third-grade Washington Extra Fancy Red Delicious, with surprisingly good type, Carlson reported.
Golden Delicious crop smallest in two decades
The domination of Red and Golden Delicious has ended. While Red Delicious is still the number-one apple variety in Washington State, Golden Delicious dropped to fifth place, behind Gala, Granny Smith, and Fuji, as well as Red Delicious.
Washington’s 2006 Golden crop is estimated at 9.8 million boxes, the smallest volume since 1985, when the state’s total apple production was only 37 million boxes.
Dan Kelly, assistant manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association, said the state’s overall apple production this season is 92 million boxes, down from 101 million boxes last year. The Golden Delicious crop was impacted by extensive russeting, hail damage, and orchards being taken out of production as a result of low returns.
“I think Gala has taken a chunk of the Golden market,” Kelly said.
Shortcourse in cider
Cornell University plans to offer an intensive course for cider makers from December 5 to 8 at the New York Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva. The course will be taught by Dr. Peter Mitchell, a cider expert and consultant from the United Kingdom.
It will provide an introduction to cider production, training in the key techniques and laboratory skills for cider analysis and production, and an introduction to sensory analysis. A detailed reference manual is included.
For information contact Ian Merwin at email@example.com or Olga Padilla-Zakour at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scholarship in memory of Lester Woda
A scholarship fund has been established at the Washington Apple Education Foundation in memory of Lester Woda, a manager at Zirkle Fruit Company’s Johnny Appleseed orchard in Malott, Washington, who died in an accident last summer. Woda, 49, drowned at Leader Lake while working underwater on an irrigation valve.
The scholarship is open to graduating seniors and college students from Okanogan County who are pursuing a degree in agriculture production. An application form can be downloaded from the foundation’s Web site at www.waef.org. The deadline for applications in March 1, 2007.
Donations to the fund should be sent to the foundation at P.O. Box 3720, Wenatchee, WA 98807.
For information, call (509) 663-7713, or e-mail email@example.com.
Washington’s ag director heads national group
Valoria Loveland, director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture, has been named president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. In that role, Loveland will represent the interests of all the states in national farm policy, while continuing to bring a western perspective to national agricultural issues, according to information from the WSDA.
During her tenure as president, Congress will craft the 2007 Farm Bill. Loveland said she looked forward to working with Congress to develop an effective farm policy that supports diverse interests throughout the country. In Washington State, it benefits farming families, but also covers conservation programs to support salmon recovery, international trade promotion, and clean energy production.
Loveland, the first female director of WSDA, is also the first woman to lead the national association in its 92-year history.
Steward of the Land Award
The American Farmland Trust is accepting nominations for its 2007 Steward of the Land Award. A $10,000 prize is presented annually to a farmer who best exemplifies the trust’s mission of stopping the loss of productive farmland and promoting farming practices that lead to a healthy environment.
For a nomination form, check the Web site at www.farmland.org, or call (202) 378-1255. Nominations are due by December 1.
The Washington Wine Industry Foundation and industry partners are funding Washington State’s first winery survey, which will be conducted by the National Agriculture Statistics Service. The survey went to more than 400 Washington wineries this fall to gather information on grape crush (by variety), storage capacity, bottle and bulk inventories, and wine sales. Individual responses will be confidential, and only aggregate results will be published. Results are expected next January.
Funding for the survey comes from a risk management grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.