Ostenson honored for organic leadership
Harold Ostenson received the second annual organic leadership award.
Harold Ostenson, who has been a leader in the organic tree fruit industry in Washington for more than 25 years, received the Washington State Horticultural Association’s second annual Organic Industry Service Award.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan, Ostenson served with the U.S. Navy in Vietnam. In 1976, he bought a conventional orchard in Entiat, which he soon transitioned to organic, and several years later planted one of the first orchards on the Frenchman Hills, near George. He established an organic packing facility in George in 1997, and helped other organic growers to grow quality fruit so they could get the best returns. He pioneered the use of fish oil and lime sulfur as an organic fruit thinner, which has become a widespread practice.
In 2005, Ostenson closed the packing house and went to work for Stemilt Growers, Inc., Wenatchee, as its organic program coordinator. He retired from Stemilt in 2010 and now works as an organic consultant.
On receiving the award, Ostenson recalled that when he began growing apples organically in the early 1980s, a fruit industry leader said he doubted that organic production could be successful on more than a quarter of an acre, but Washington has become a leading supplier in the United States and the world, exceeding even Ostenson’s expectations. He predicted that the organic fruit industry will change even faster in the future. “I think there’s a huge opportunity,” he said.
West Mathison, president of Stemilt Growers, presented the award during the Hort Association’s annual meeting on December 6.