2010 Good Fruit Grower of the Year
John Carter is credited for helping restart Washington State University’s cherry breeding program.
Fruit grower John Carter of The Dalles, Oregon, was named the 2010 Good Fruit Grower of the Year to recognize his horticultural skills and years of industry contributions. The award, chosen by the magazine’s advisory board, is made annually to a grower or family who is innovative and inspiring, focuses on growing quality fruit, and contributes to the tree fruit industry as a whole.
Carter, who grows mostly cherries and some apples on 350 acres, has been involved in numerous cherry industry trade groups and activities since he began farming more than 35 years ago, but he’s had a passion for research, and in particular, a Northwest cherry breeding program.
In the 1970s, Carter was part of a small engineering design group that worked to silence large gas engines, like those used in energy plants and airplanes. He enjoyed the work but he and his Karen wanted to find a better place to raise three young children than densely populated and smoggy Los Angeles. They bought an 80-acre cherry orchard in The Dalles to start a new home and career.
It turns out that John’s background in physics and engineering design was a good fit with agriculture. When he became an orchardist in 1975, he discovered a love for farming. “Something about farming clicked with me—to see things grow and the opportunity for you to have an impact on something,” he said.
Through the years, he renovated and replanted, transitioning from processed to fresh market cherry varieties and from 20-feet triangle spacings to more narrow plantings with 7-1/2 feet between trees and 15 feet between rows. His training system is the steep leader in most of his orchard, with some blocks trained to the central leader. Today, he produces about a dozen sweet cherry cultivars on four rootstocks (Mazzard, Gisela 6 and 12, and Krymsk 5), spanning the fresh market window from early to late season. And, he’s expanded the original 80-acre cherry orchard to about 350 acres of owned and leased ground and diversified into apples.
But it was industry research that really got John excited. Early on, he got involved in the Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission and its research committee. “The research portion of the puzzle was something that matched my background,” he said, adding that his background in statistics enabled him to understand research lingo and delineate between statistical differences and anecdotal findings.
Pasco, Washington, tree fruit grower Denny Hayden and member of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, identified Carter as one of the key leaders, ‘front and center,’ at annual cherry research reviews. The reviews are joint meetings of cherry growers and researchers from Washington, Oregon, and California held annually to share the latest research information, coordinate research projects, and avoid duplication.
“The joint Washington/Oregon cherry breeding program at WSU might not have been possible without John, or it surely would have been more delayed in starting,” he said. “Carter’s been a real conduit between the Washington and Oregon cherry industries.”