Hort Association President Mark Holtzinger thinks it’s “cool to be a farmer.”
Get ready for a celebration at the Washington State Horticultural Association’s annual convention in Yakima, December 1-3, says Mark Holtzinger, association president .
"I don’t think there’s enough celebration of our industry and our successes. It’s pretty hard to dismiss the fact that it’s a good time to be in farming in general and specifically tree fruits, given the market and the value that’s been recognized in our product."
Hort Association members have joked that the president’s performance is measured by the price of Red Delicious over his tenure. Holtzinger said that by that measure he must be one of the best presidents in the organization’s 104-year history, with some selling at more than $30 a box this season. "I don’t think Reds have had a better price ever," Holtzinger said. "Who would have imagined that would happen?"
The convention will also celebrate the fact that young people are staying in the tree fruit industry rather than seeking careers elsewhere. Gilbert family members will talk about how they navigated five generations of farming. A panel discussion will involve the Holtzinger, Kershaw, Allan, and McDougall families, who have been in the tree fruit industry for multiple generations.
"Right now, it’s really cool to be a farmer," Holtzinger said. "But even ten years ago, there was a concern that we weren’t going to get the next generation excited and involved. People were seeing their parents work hard in the orchard and take a blood bath, and now they’re seeing that there’s an opportunity to be rewarded for their hard work."
The program also addresses issues that some might call problems but Holtzinger calls opportunities. Ed Seifried, an economics and business professor at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, will give the Batjer address on "Sustainable Profits in a Global Economy," and Dr. Des O’Rourke of Pullman, Washington, will talk about market trends and the impact of sustainable issues. Other program sessions will cover sustainability, new technology, the weather, pest management, postharvest practices, marketing, and public affairs. Specific sessions on organic production, pears, and cherries, and a full day of presentations in Spanish are planned.
B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington State Fruit Commission, will be the master of ceremonies at the Tuesday evening banquet. Ines Hanrahan, project manager with of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, is heading the poster session. Poster presenters will mingle during a reception before the banquet.
This will be the first convention with Bruce Grim as executive director of the association. He joined the association’s staff this summer.
For program details and registration, check the Web site at www.wahort.org/annual-mtg.html.