Tree fruit grower Jim Doornink was crowned the 71st Cherry King during the Cherry Institute meeting held in Yakima, Washington, on January 16. The Wapato, Washington, orchardist was recognized for his passion in growing tree fruit and three decades of industry service.
Doornink grew up helping on the family orchard as a child and ran his first harvest crew at 14 years old out of necessity when the field foreman left right at harvest time. While attending Washington State University he came home weekends to help in the orchards and was known for going straight to work instead of checking in at home first.
The 64 acres of family orchard at Parker that he started out with in 1974 have grown to more than 250. Diversification has been part of his business plan, and he stays current with new varieties. He grows cherries, apricots, pears, and apples.
His belief that industry and community service are part of a lifelong education has resulted in 30 years of involvement with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, as a board member since 1985 and chair since 1997. Doornink led the Research Commission’s steering group that developed the Tree Fruit Industry Technology Roadmap, a long-term strategic goal of reducing the cost of producing the highest quality fruit that ultimately became a national effort.
As a result of the roadmap, industry research funds have been leveraged with national grants as well as federal funds from the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and created unique research partnerships with engineer scientists from places like Carnegie Mellon University.
Doornink has also been a member of his local irrigation district and was a founding board member of Riverside Christian School in Yakima.
Doornink and his wife, Reena, were named the Good Fruit Grower’s Grower of the Year for 2009.