Steve Zediker, president of the Washington State Horticultural Association, went to Washington, D.C., last winter for a meeting of the U.S. Apple Association.

Steve Zediker

Steve Zediker

There, he visited the Jefferson Memorial and was struck by a Jefferson quotation inscribed on the southeast interior wall.

“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.” —Thomas Jefferson

He noted the reference to “institutions” and said to himself, “I think that fits our association to a T.”

The words were the inspiration behind the theme for the Hort Association’s 110th annual meeting, which is: “With new discoveries and new truths, we advance.” The association will meet December 1-3 in Kennewick amidst a number of changes.

It’s the first time that the event will be held in the Tri-Cities, a relatively new fruit growing area of the state. Kennewick’s Three Rivers Convention Center is larger than comparable facilities in Wenatchee and Yakima, where meetings have traditionally been held. The trade show, which will be bigger than ever, is in the Toyota Center, adjacent to the meeting.

The Great Hall at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

The Great Hall at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

But it’s also the Hort Association’s last meeting. Immediately afterward, the association will merge into the new Washington State Tree Fruit Association, as did the former Washington Growers Clearing House Association, Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, and the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association.

Zediker said the tree fruit industry needs to change based on new discoveries, new truths, and new advancements.

“We’re in a civilized society that has to continue to advance and evolve and sometimes we have to change our lives to adapt to that,” he said. “We have four institutions that have decided to merge because that makes good sense. The truth is we have to be one to be stronger.”

The meeting is designed to help growers make changes on their farms.

“We have a finite amount of land, so we have to be more efficient with it,” Zediker said. “We don’t have an abundant amount of labor, and our source of labor has changed. We have a limited amount of water, and we have to become better stewards of it.”

In addition, consumer tastes have been changing. “They expect something to fit their need or want,” Zediker said. “We’re in a society that doesn’t accept something that’s close enough any more, so we need to have different varieties. We just continue to fine tune our industry, just like every other business has to.”

Gwen Hoheisel, Washington State University extension specialist based in the Tri-Cities, worked with Zediker to plan the meeting program. One of their goals was to help growers understand some of the science behind horticultural practices and pest management and teach them how to move forward.

“This industry has a lot of new tools that can be used, but sometimes people don’t know how to use them or access them,” she said.

Dr. Jay Brunner, director and entomologist at WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center in Wenatchee, who will present the Batjer memorial address, will discuss factors that will shape the future of pest control.

Horticulturist Stuart Tustin from the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research, will speak on December 1 about a meeting of the minds on orchard systems and production, which occurred earlier this year when Cornell University hosted a symposium of the International Society for Horticultural Science.

In a later session, Tustin will answer the question “Can light interception of intensive apple and pear orchard systems be increased?”

The program features many tree fruit experts from Washington and across the country, some of whom will appear via video.

“We want to bring the best speakers in the world for a specific topic, and if they can’t travel, we still want to hear the message they have to tell,” Hoheisel said. “So we’re going to use technology to get that information.”

In a departure from the usual meeting format, a visit to two nearby orchards will be offered at the conclusion of the cherry session on December 2. Growers can travel on the buses that will be provided or carpool.

In the Spanish language session, there’ll be two-hour tractor safety workshops in addition to the usual educational program. Participants will receive certificates from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries for completing the training. Advance registration is required for the safety workshop. (Advance registration is not required for the Spanish session.)

To see the full program go to

Hort meeting by the numbers

Organizers of the Washington State Horticultural Association’s annual meeting are counting on:

– 1,600 attendees
– 70 speakers
– 100 research posters
– 200 trade show exhibitors
– 115  gallons of coffee to be drunk