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Tim Smith speaks on the main stage during the 2013 WSTFA annual meeting in Wenatchee, Washington.<b>(TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

Tim Smith speaks on the main stage during the 2013 WSTFA annual meeting in Wenatchee, Washington.(TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

The Washington State Tree Fruit Association Annual Meeting is just around the corner, Dec. 5-7. Most people are busily working to bring in another harvest.

This time of year we see firsthand the rewards of our efforts. There is nothing like the crisp morning air and dew on the grass to focus your efforts as the harvest swings into full motion around the state.

A dedicated team of professionals from across our industry is busy planning and organizing the annual meeting. As most know, this is our primary outreach and educational conference.

We again will have the customary trade show in conjunction with the conference in Wenatchee.

This year’s theme is “Welcome to the new normal: continuous change.”

Our goal for the conference is to let members enjoy educational sessions that are focused on a series of themes during the conference.

Another objective is to highlight research that is being supported by our Washington State Tree Fruit Endowment. Organizers are putting together another exciting slate of speakers that is sure to have something for everyone.

Come prepared to listen, learn and be challenged in new ways as the demand for continuous change forces us all to adapt to survive.

Our keynote speaker this year will be Jim McFerson, director of Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, who will share highlights from our journey on the technology roadmap. More importantly, he will dive into what’s next for our industry on our technology journey.

We all are looking for that next breakthrough that will help lower costs, increase productivity of target fruit or both.

We will follow up the first day’s morning address by diving into how our customers are choosing what produce they stock in their stores — identifying retail consumer trends.

Mike Hulett, senior merchant for Wal-Mart Fresh, will give the audience a glimpse into how domestic retail evaluates the categories they sell. The big question we want to understand: What do people want and can we grow it economically?

The first day also will highlight our dedication to the partnership between our industry and WSU.

It features an introduction of the new WSU President, Kirk Schulz, who will share his vision about the importance of our industry’s commitment to the endowment and how, working together, we can create empowering change, as well as a detailed discussion on the rollout of Cosmic Crisp, a practical example of that partnership.

The goal is to provide a good understanding of what has been learned about this exciting new variety so that growers can make better decisions as the industry prepares to launch into production.

The format for days two and three of the conference will be slightly different than past conferences.

The sessions will be topical and cover apples, pears, cherries, preharvest and postharvest, as well as organic and conventional approaches to growing tree fruit.

The chosen topics:
—Picking winning technology strategies.
—Consumer expectations for apples, pears and cherries.
—Strategies to maximize revenue.
—Food safety regulations.
—Spanish sessions.
—Science-based applied horticulture.
—Future farmers: Where will they come from?

As the planning committee developed the outline for the conference, we attempted to build a robust program that will challenge all of us to think about our various business models and consider how future changes could impact how we do business.

Sam Godwin

Sam Godwin

In so many ways, we are exposed to changing times, including with labor, food safety regulations, new genetics or changing consumer expectations, to highlight a few. All of these variables impact us, and how quickly we recognize them and adjust will determine our success in the future.

I look forward to hearing from many of you at the conference this December. Until then, have a safe and productive harvest. •

– by Sam Godwin, a grower based in Tonasket, Washington, is chairman of the WSTFA Planning Committee.