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Jim Black

Jim Black

I retire as managing editor as of February 1, having served Good Fruit Grower for over 20 years. Getting to know so many of you has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I think you grow wonderful, healthy, great-tasting fruit, but it’s not the fruit that I most value. It’s not even the great wines that I enjoy perhaps a bit too much. But it is the people. Our Good Fruit Grower of the Year 2012, Scott Smith, said just that in his acceptance speech last month. Good people make life worthwhile, and you “good fruit ­growers” are the reason all of us at Good Fruit Grower are so dedicated to our jobs.

The tree fruit and grape industries have changed dramatically during my tenure. Some big names in the business are sadly gone, both growers and packing houses; and a new generation of leaders is emerging. Some old standby fruit varieties have almost disappeared, replaced by newer, better, (or better marketed) varieties. And industry organizations have taken on different roles, often with much leaner budgets.

But one thing hasn’t changed in those two decades, and that is the generosity of the people in these industries.  Growers are contributing record amounts to universities and foundations that provide research and educational benefits. They fund scholarships for youth and are an important part of every community where their fruit is grown and processed.

In preparation for this issue, I had the pleasure of working with Sara Holtzinger and the staff at Yakima’s Madison House to highlight what the tree fruit industry has been able to achieve with some money and a dream. Owned by the Union Gospel Mission, Madison House directly serves approximately 300 children in a 10-square-block area of Yakima, Washington, the hometown of Good Fruit Grower and a center for fruit and vegetable production in the Pacific Northwest.

These children are almost entirely from Hispanic fruit-worker families—too often dysfunctional families—who have not adjusted well to the cultural change made when their parents moved from rural areas of Mexico where the way of life was understood and well defined. In the United States they face a new language—and a culture that is often not welcoming. Change is hard for everyone.

Growers and shippers could easily have dismissed the problems, thinking that by providing a living wage and opportunity to the parents, they were doing their part. But, as witnessed so often, a number of industry leaders are contributing large amounts of cash and time to make Madison House work. And they’re successfully bringing in their friends to add to the financing.

Tree fruit and wine grape industries make money and that’s important. But what most intrigues me about all of you are the ways that you so quickly lend a helping hand.

Thank you for these amazing 20 years. My replacement is Casey Corr, a man of extraordinary talents who promises to take Good Fruit Grower to new levels, particularly in the digital world that is waiting for us. I’ve promised him that this industry will surprise him with its goodness and its integrity.

It’s one promise that I know will be kept.