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The next IFTA conference will be held in Berlin, Germany, to coincide with the Fruit Logistica fair in February.

The next IFTA conference will be held in Berlin, Germany, to coincide with the Fruit Logistica fair in February.

The next annual conference of the International Fruit Tree Association will be held in Berlin and Potsdam, Germany, January 31 to February 4. This will be the fourth IFTA conference to be held outside North America, following New Zealand in 2000, Italy in 2004, and Australia in 2007. Previously, the conference took place in the United States, moving between the East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, and Canada. Since the millennium decision to go offshore for the first time in 2000, the world has changed a lot, and not only in the fruit business.

We have to keep up in our personal and business lives with the circumstances the world provides to us. Worldwide communication via mobile phone and e-mail flattens the world. Web sites and services are knocking on our private and business doors, regardless of time and location. The world is big and flat.

When I first joined IFTA at the annual conference in Rochester, New York, in 1997, it was my first visit to North America. I remember the cold, outdoor sessions during the technical days, which had me thinking more about the impact of nature than arguing about how to best train a super-spindle tree to perfection. I was and still am very much impressed with the willingness of all IFTA members to communicate openly and to exchange ideas, fears, and hopes.

Berlin is located in Germany, where the Fruit Logistica fair takes place every year, and is in the middle of Europe. The European Union started in 1950 with six countries, enlarging in 1973 when the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark joined. They were followed by Greece in 1981, Spain and Portugal in 1986, and Austria, Finland, and ­Sweden in 1995. In 1999, traditional currencies were switched into a completely new single currency, the euro. In recent years, the European Union has enlarged towards central and eastern Europe. The Berlin conference will be an opportunity to catch up with all these European changes.

The preconference tour will traverse 500 miles from Graz in the south to Vienna, Bratislava, Prague, Dresden, and Berlin in the north. Participants will experience living history, full of personal stories and examples in a changing agricultural society and fruit industry.

The "I" in IFTA is of greater significance than ever. In an increasingly complex and flat world, communication is a key factor in our personal and business lives. In my opinion, the news on television or on the Internet has no stronger impact on my daily life than having a chat with an IFTA member during the conference. Whether it’s about a new variety, a new rootstock, a training method, a planting system, about a ­threatening disease, we need to break it down to what we can change and what we cannot change.

We can always expect from IFTA and its annual conferences a valuable education, regardless of the location where it will take place in the future. In our business, it requires hope and faith to stay strong and become stronger. Our products are healthy, they are seasonal, they originate from nature, and they are vital. There is a lot that we still do not know, yet we do know that there are lots of examples in the world as to how we can successfully grow and cultivate fruit, as well as receive customer and consumer appreciation. It all comes back to fully understanding the supply chain and gaining a better understanding of what we are doing and how the society regards us.

IFTA is the ideal networking, education, and research and development platform. It’s up to the members to pick up the ball, to use it actively to communicate and to exchange ideas. It takes some effort and energy, but responses will be great.

We are able to collectively create trends, as well as decide on new breakthroughs like new dwarfing ­rootstocks, planting systems, or new managed varieties. We need to be always looking for a way to support ­sustainable management.

Berlin awaits you! Welcome, and don’t miss out on this opportunity to interact and get your own personal view about a time in which Europe and the world are in transition. 

Michael S. Weber is an IFTA

board member from Germany.