Dena Ybarra, a third-generation grower in Quincy, Washington, and longtime nursery owner, was crowned the 2020 Cherry King Friday at the Northwest Cherry Growers’ annual Cherry Institute in Yakima, Washington.
Ybarra, who grew up cutting budwood on her parents’ Columbia Basin Nursery, is the 76th person to hold the honor, bestowed each year upon a cherry industry member for “above and beyond” contributions.
The 2019 Cherry King was Mike Willett, the now-retired manager of the research commission, and he presented Ybarra the Cherry King crown.
“I think they should change the name this year to Cherry Queen,” Ybarra said.
Ybarra, who holds a horticulture degree from Washington State University, helped usher in new WSU cherry varieties, including the Chelan and Tieton, through her work at her family’s business (until it was sold in 2014) and later through her involvement with the Northwest Nursery Improvement Institute, according to a biography provided by the Northwest Cherry Growers, a Yakima organization that markets sweet cherries in five Northwest states. In fact, Ybarra planted the first commercial block of Tietons.
Ybarra has been a board member of the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission since 2011, serving as the chair of the commission’s cherry committee and the commission’s treasurer, overseeing its roughly $4 million budget. She also is involved in other industry groups, including WSU’s cherry breeding program advisory committee and the International Fruit Tree Association.
Ybarra and her husband, Manuel, have one adult son.
Ybarra gave credit to her family when receiving the award. “It was definitely a family business,” she said.
—by Ross Courtney
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