Wally Heuser wins award from Michigan Farm Bureau
Wally Heuser, right, received Michigan Farm Bureau's Distinguished Service Award from MFB president Wayne Wood.
Michigan Farm Bureau
Michigan Farm Bureau gave its 2011 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award to Wallace Heuser, the Lawrence, Michigan, nurseryman. They lauded him as a Michigan-born and -bred world authority on fruit varieties, rootstocks, and orchard management systems who used his exceptional skills to make “unparalleled” contributions to the fruit industry.
“I know of no other individual who has so greatly influenced the present commercial tree fruit industry,” said Jerome Hull, Michigan State University professor emeritus in the horticulture department. He and William Baird, professor and chairperson of the MSU horticulture department, nominated Heuser for the award. Baird called Heuser’s contributions “unparalleled.”
“He is recognized worldwide as an authority on deciduous fruit varieties, rootstocks and orchard management systems, and an expert horticulturalist, nurseryman, innovator, and marketing specialist,” Baird said.
Paul Rood, Coloma, Michigan, a classmate of Heuser’s at Michigan State, where Heuser graduated in pomology in 1950, said, “Dwarf trees were just an idea a college department head had, but Wally took hold of it, grew dwarf trees, and helped the whole industry change. It was a radical idea, but he recognized the possibilities. And when he concentrated on being a nurseryman, everything he propagated was made better.”
Heuser’s foresight into the movement toward smaller fruit trees led to the creation of the International Dwarf Fruit Tree Association, now known as the International Fruit Tree Association, of which he was founding president. The first meeting took place in his tree storage shed.
“Nearly all of the nation’s orchards today are planted on dwarfing rootstocks, yielding trees smaller in stature, more precocious, and more efficiently managed,” said Hull.
“He was one of the first nurseryman to realize the merits of the German cherry breeding program and the potential of some of the dwarfing cherry rootstocks for sweet cherry production, especially for fresh marketing,” said Hull. Heuser was a leader in bringing Gisela rootstocks to the United States. He is now working with Cornell University to introduce several new sweet cherry varieties developed there.
During his career, Heuser tested and introduced about 100 new apple and sweet cherry varieties or strains and rootstocks, working as president of Summit Sales, Inc., and International Plant Management, Inc. International Plant Management’s stated mission is to test, protect, introduce, and market new deciduous fruit tree selections.
“He’s one of the most humble persons I know,” said Trever Meachum, a young Michigan fruit industry leader and IFTA board member who counts himself fortunate to learn from Heuser.
Heuser was raised on his parents’ Hilltop Orchards and Nurseries at Hartford, Michigan, returning to the family farm after graduation from MSU to put into practice what he had learned and influence others in the fruit industry. Over the years, he has won numerous awards and recognition for his work.