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Mathews CEO at FirstFruits

Keith Mathews, former executive director of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association, is the new CEO at FirstFruits Marketing of Washington, a new marketing firm in Yakima that opened for business in August.

Mathews began work at FirstFruits October 1 and will be responsible for strategically recruiting like-minded supplier-partners to join Broetje Orchards and Columbia Valley Fruit LLC, targeting retail customers, developing marketing programs, and expanding the business, according to Jim Hazen, business manager of Broetje Orchards.

Mathews has spent the last 30 years involved in nearly all aspects of the tree fruit industry, from representing grower-shippers to working in cold storage to –marketing fruit for several sales organizations.

“His previous experience as a fruit marketer and general manager will assist us in targeting retail customers and expanding our business,” said Hazen. “He has a really good statistical background useful in tracking information and identifying trends, and he has good knowledge of the retail side.”

Search for a new executive director for the Growers-Shippers Association is under way.

Ohmart joins SureHarvest

Dr. Cliff Ohmart joined SureHarvest in September as vice president of professional services.

Ohmart served as the sustainable winegrowing director for the Lodi Winegrape Commission for the past 13 years, working with the commission’s 750 growers who farm more than 100,000 acres. As the senior author of the Lodi Winegrower’s Workbook: A self assessment of integrated farming practices, he helped guide grower innovation and adoption of sustainable farming practices. The workbook became the model for a statewide wine grape sustainable program. He was also the architect of the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing program for third-party certification by SureHarvest. Since the program’s launch in 2006, 35 growers farming 16,000 acres have been recognized for sustainably grown wine grapes on more than a dozen wine labels bearing the Lodi Rules logo.

SureHarvest provides solutions for growers and agrifood companies pursuing sustainability strategies, from farming management software to consulting services to third-party certification.

Wine Legends inductee

John Anderson, recognized for his extraordinary contributions to the growth of Washington State’s wine industry, was recently inducted into the Legends of Washington Wine Hall of Fame, a project of the Walter Clore Wine & –Culinary Center.

Anderson planted his first vineyards in 1980 under the direction of Dr. Walt Clore and began involvement in the industry by serving on the board of directors of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers from 1984 to 1994 and the –Washington Wine Commission from 1987 to 1996. He cofounded the Auction of Washington Wines, now in its 22ndyear, to benefit uncompensated care at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the Washington Wine Education Foundation.

The Legends Hall of Fame project recognizes wine industry veterans whose positive commitment and contributions will have historical and lasting significance. An art piece will be displayed at the Clore Center to memorialize Anderson and previously recognized legends Bill Preston, John and Ann Williams, Jim and Pat Holmes, and Stan Clarke.

Wample joins soil firm

After nearly 40 years of academic life, Dr. Robert Wample, recently retired chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at California State University, Fresno, has entered private industry by joining a soil analysis company.

For the past nine years. Wample was director of the Viticulture and Enology Research Center and head of the V & E department. Under his leadership, the program strengthened its prominence in agricultural education as he merged viticulture and enology, programs that operated independently for nearly 50 years. Fresno State was the first CSU campus to combine its viticulture and enology research and academic offerings, according to a Fresno State news release. Additionally, while at Fresno State, Wample raised more than $500,000 from industry for his research program, including a gift from the Boswell family to build the World Cooperage Barrel House at the Fresno State Winery and establishment of the Bronco Wine Company viticulture chair position.

Before leading the Fresno State program, Wample taught for two decades at Washington State University, where his research laid the foundation for what has become a standard industry practice by Washington grape growers—managing canopy growth through regulated deficit irrigation. He also studied mechanical pruning and mechanical thinning, which resulted in the development and use of yield monitoring equipment in conjunction with harvest.

Wample is now a viticulturist with Soil and Topography Information LLC, headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin. He advises clients who use the company’s Soil Information System in their vineyards.

McEvoy moves to other Washington

Miles McEvoy, manager of Washington State’s Organic Food Program for the past 20 years, has left to become deputy administrator of the National Organic Program in Washington, D.C.

From 1992 to 1995, he was the founding director of the eco-label program The Food Alliance. In 1998, he helped establish the National Association of State Organic Programs and currently serves as its president. In 2001, McEvoy helped establish Washington State’s Small Farm and Direct Marketing program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that the National Organic Program will become an independent program within the department’s Agricultural Marketing Service because of the increased visibility and emphasis on organic agriculture, and the increasing need for governmental oversight of the expanding program. The program will receive increased funding and staffing in the new fiscal year, according to a USDA press release. Program funding for the 2009 fiscal year was $3.2 million.