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Winters seem to pass more quickly every year. As most know … winter is officially “meeting time” in the Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry. Cherry growers will have numerous opportunities to come in from the cold and focus on the challenges of producing the best sweet cherries in the world. A few of the our important dates are:

• January 14th, Cherry Institute at the Yakima Convention Center, Washington

• January 20th, North Central Washington Stone Fruit Day at the Wenatchee Convention Center, Washington

• February 2nd, Okanogan County Hort. Assoc. Annual Mtg. at the Okanogan County Agriplex, Washington

• February 8th, Mid Columbia Cherry Day in The Dalles, Oregon

• February 26th – March 4th, IFTA Annual Conference, Red Lion Hotel, Pasco, Washington

At Cherry Institute, we have a great lunchtime program lined up for this year, with over 400 tickets being pre-sold for the event. I often find myself scrambling to secure a speaker for the event, hoping to work around the changing schedules of politicians, retailers, marketers, and economists.

In a refreshing turn of events, this year’s speaker walked into my office in October and asked if there were any opportunities to get in front of the cherry growers. My reply was “Of course there is … and your timing is perfect … said the spider to the fly.”

This year’s keynote speaker is none other than Dr. Dan Bernardo. Dan is Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resources Sciences (CAHNRS) at Washington State University. In this position, he is responsible for administering teaching, research, and outreach programs in food, agriculture, natural resource, and human sciences. In 2009, he also assumed the role of director of WSU Extension.

Together, CAHNRS and WSU-Extension have over 1,500 employees and an annual operating budget of over $160 million. Prior to moving to Washington State, Dr. Bernardo was Professor and Department Head of the Department of Agricultural Economics at Kansas State University (KSU) from 1995 through 2005. He earned his Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Washington State University and a B.S. in Agricultural and Managerial Economics from the University of California at Davis.

Also of importance is the agenda for Cherry Institute itself. The day will be filled with timely and insightful talks on how we can grow and bring to market “the diamond of fruit.” For example, Lynn Long will give a talk on Harvest Timing Strategy, Dr. Matt Whiting will provide an update on Cherry Horticulture Research as well as moderate a panel on “UFO Cherries From A Grower’s Perspective.” Dr. Betsy Beers will talk about the challenges “Spotted Wing Drosophila” and maybe even share her thoughts on where the industry stands regarding brown marmorated stink bug. Dan Fazio from the Washington Farm Bureau will talk about current labor issues and Dr. Qin Zhang of WSU-IAREC will give an update to this year’s progress regarding “Mechanization and Automation in Cherry Orchard Systems.”

In short, we have a lot of great meetings lined up over the next couple of months, and I look forward to seeing you there!