Lewis receives Latino award

Karen Lewis, Washington State University tree fruit regional extension specialist, has been honored with the first annual Latino Leadership Award from the Washington State Horticultural Association.

The award was established at the suggestion of retiring association president West Mathison to recognize Latino people working in the tree fruit industry or industry ­people who have contributed to the Latino community.

Leo Garcia, bilingual agricultural education director at Wenatchee Valley College, who announced the award during the Hort Association’s annual meeting in December, said Lewis was instrumental in establishing an educational session in Spanish during the annual meeting 18 years ago. This has become an important part of the meeting.

Lewis said she proposed the Spanish-language session after realizing that fruit growers struggled to provide good training for their workers on safety and day-to-day activities and that comprehension on the part of employees was low.

“Quality materials and methods were available, but we just couldn’t escape the language barrier,” she recalled. “A grower could show a safety video, but could not lead a discussion or answer questions after the video. A grower could tell a crew what he wanted done—like prune this and not that—but he couldn’t explain why.”

Lewis lived on an orchard at the time and saw firsthand how this impacted both growers and employees. She decided to look for a way to provide education and information to the work force in Spanish. “At the very least, health and safety information needed to be ­delivered in their native language,” she said.

Lewis’s current extension work focuses on the integration of horticulture, people, engineering and economics. Projects she’s involved in include mechanical thinning, harvest assist technologies, autonomous platforms, and automated caliper counters for nurseries.  

She grew up in Panama and moved to Arizona to complete her senior year of high school.  She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in horticulture from the University of Arizona and joined WSU in 1987 as extension educator for Grant and Adams counties.

Receiving the Latino Leadership Award was one of the greatest honors of her life, she said, and her Latino father would be very proud.

She received the association’s Women’s Leadership Through Service Award in 1997 and the Silver Apple Award in 2008. She received the International Fruit Tree Association’s Outstanding Extension award in 2011.

McLean to head up Prevar

Jim McLean of New Zealand has been appointed chair of Prevar Limited to succeed David Pilkington, who retired. McLean has experience in company, science, and ­intellectual property management.

Prevar is an international joint venture established to commercialize new apple and pear cultivars bred by Plant and Food Research in New Zealand. McLean is a former chair of HortResearch and led the merger of HortResarch and Crop and Food Research to form Plant and Food Research in 2008, according to a press release from Prevar’s chief ­executive Dr. Brett Ennis.

Meachum appointed to Michigan agriculture commission

Trever Meachum, a southwest Michigan fruit grower who is chair of the finance committee of the International Fruit Tree Association, has been appointed to the state’s Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development by Governor Rick Snyder.

He will serve a four-year term on the five-member commission that provides ­oversight and executive direction to the agriculture department.

Meachum, 41, also serves on the Michigan Processing Apple Growers Marketing Committee and is chair of the Michigan Apple Research Committee. He is production manager of High Acres Fruit Farm at Hartford, which he operates with his parents and brother. The farm has 1,000 acres of fruits, vegetables, and field crops.