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Many fruit growers know Paul Rood. The Covert, Michigan, fruit grower is a frequent traveler on International Fruit Tree Association trips, where his opinions are carefully presented and attentively listened to. He travels extensively to other scientific symposia as well, and he’s been all over the world.

His 125-acre farm has 40 acres devoted to pears, 10 to apples, and about 20 to plums. One important part of the Rood Fruit Farm operation is the shortage of winter work. Winter is for travel and study.

Pear pruning starts in November, after the fruit is marketed. And by December, he’s ready to attend the winter horticulture shows in Michigan and in Washington State and the IFTA winter meeting. He also attends pear meetings in the Pacific Northwest.

One part of Rood’s college education 60 years ago was the requirement that students learn a second language, and Rood chose Spanish.

“I speak Spanish,” he said, “and it has helped me immensely. Mexican workers have been the saviors of the American fruit industry. We cannot do it without them.” Being able to communicate with them has turned out to be a great asset.

Two-thirds of his workers are “settled out” migrants who now live in the local area, but still work in agriculture. Rood’s main hired man, who has been with him 20 years, finishes up the pruning work, and then, he, too, leaves to visit Mexico in the winter.