Kent Christensen, president of Independent Warehouse, Inc., in Dryden, Washington, received the Washington State Horticultural Association’s Silver Pear Award during the association’s annual meeting in December. Incoming Hort President Steve Zediker, presented the award in recognition of Christensen’s many years of work on behalf of the Pacific Northwest pear industry.
Christensen, 77, grew up on his parents’ orchard near Dryden and earned a degree in horticulture from Washington State University. He then worked at the orchards of his parents and his father-in-law, Richard Remley.
It was his dream in college to be a fruit packer, and he and his father-in-law built a small packing and cold storage facility.
In 1974, three families established Independent Warehouse, Inc., of which he has been owner, president, and manager ever since. Although his son Craig and son-in-law Ken Jackson are involved in the business, Christensen still goes to work every day.
“I tell people I’ve been semi-retired for 20 years,” he told Good Fruit Grower. “I just enjoy it. I like talking to all the people we deal with in the market, and it’s a challenging, interesting business.”
Christensen served as an alternate member on the board of the Pear Bureau Northwest for 13 years in the 1980s and 1990s and was chair in 1999-2001. He also served as an alternate or member of the Winter Pear Control Committee and was chair in 1996-1998.
Ray Fuller of Chelan, one of the first certified organic apple growers in Washington State, received the Silver Apple Award. Fuller has been growing fruit organically since the early 1980s.
He took over the family orchard after graduating from Washington State University with a degree in agriculture and now has 115 acres of organic apples, pears, and cherries.
Over the years, he has invited many different scientists to do trials in his orchard on such topics as mating disruption, new rootstocks, control of replant disease, and thinning.
Fuller has been active in the tree fruit industry, serving on the Hort Association’s board and WSU’s advisory board to the College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resources. He has been an advocate for the organic industry and received the Organic Trade Association’s Organic Farming Leadership Award in 2008.
Ralph Broetje of Broetje Orchards in Prescott, Washington, received the Latino Leadership Award. Leo Garcia, director of Wenatchee Valley College’s bilingual education programs, who presented the award, described Broetje as a person who quietly does great things. “He is one of the least ostentatious people I have ever known,” he said.
Broetje had a dream when he was 15 years old of having an orchard and using the proceeds to help other people. He provides his workers with job security, family-friendly policies, health care, educational opportunities, and seasonal and permanent housing, Garcia said.
Besides supporting his own workers, he is involved in mission projects in the United States and overseas. He helped launch the Spanish session at the Hort Association’s annual meeting 21 years ago.
Orchardist Phyllis Gleasman of Chelan, Washington, received the Women’s Leadership Through Service Award.
Gleasman has worked since 1980 for Chelan Fruit Cooperative, starting out as an administrative assistant. She is now the company’s internal GlobalGAP inspector and is in charge of its GRAS2P pilot program training and industry education.
She is a graduate of the Washington Agriculture and Forestry Education Foundation’s leadership program and served as foundation president in 2000-2001.
She was a board member of the Washington Growers Clearing House Association for five years. She is a member of the grower insurance advisory committee of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association and serves on the Hort Association’s Political Action Committee.
Deborah Carter, technical issues manager for the Northwest Horticultural Council since 2006, received the Women’s Leadership Through Science Award.
Before joining the Hort Council staff, she operated her own grant-writing and consulting business in Yakima, Washington.
She previously was director of product development and quality control for Pace International in Wapato, Washington, and in the 1990s worked as senior formulation specialist for Monsanto in St. Louis, Missouri. She has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Ohio Dominican University in Columbus.
Carter has worked to secure funding for tree fruit food safety research through the Specialty Crop block Grant Programs of Pacific Northwest states and has written several requests for grants from the Technical Assistance for Specialty Crops program to address tree fruit issues, including cull analysis for export of fruit to Taiwan and a cherry leaf spot survey for export of cherries to China.
She has served as an advisory board member for Washington State University’s Food and Environmental Quality Laboratory and for the University of Washington’s Pacific Northwest Agricultural Safety and Health program. She is a member of the United Fresh Produce Association’s Food Safety and Technology Council.
Washington grape growers awards
Three individuals, recognized for their contributions to the state’s grape industry, were honored during the Washington State Grape Society’s annual meeting held in November in Grandview, Washington.
Grape Grower of the Year
Randy Schilperoort received the Lloyd H. Porter Grower of the Year for 2013. Schilperoort, who grew up in Sunnyside, joined the family farm in the early 1970s. At the time, the 100-acre farm comprised crops like asparagus, some juice grapes, pasture, and open ground. Since then, Schilperoort has replanted the farm to mostly Concord grapes.
Through the years, he’s worked off the farm, including a stint at Sun Heaven Farms in Horse Heaven Hills, and he co-owned a grape harvester and did custom harvesting. He’s known for his well-cared-for vineyards, work ethic, and fondness for collecting antique tractors and implements.
Schilperoort is married and has three sons, one of whom has returned to help him farm.
Keith Oliver, production manager for Olsen Brothers, Inc., of Prosser, received the Walter Clore Award for 2013. Oliver is a past president of the grape society and has served on its board of directors for 12 years.
He currently is a member of the Washington State Commission on Pesticide Registration, the Research Committee of the Washington State Blueberry Commission, and the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers’ Foundation Block Advisory Committee.
Oliver has worked for Olsen Brothers for 28 years, overseeing production for some 2,500 acres of apples, blueberries, cherries, hops, and wine and juice grapes. He helped the farming company develop its minimally pruned Concord vineyards and has shared his viticulture techniques during industry field days.
He grew up in California and graduated from the University of California, Davis, with a plant science degree. Oliver says he came to Washington’s Yakima Valley in 1981 “looking for opportunity” and spent five years working for Bleyhl Farm Service, a farmer-owned cooperative providing retail, petroleum, and agronomy service, before joining Olsen Brothers.
The outstanding exhibitor award for 2013 was presented to Jack Maljaars, owner of Vine Tech Equipment in Prosser.
Vine Tech has been a trade show exhibitor at the grape society’s annual meeting since 2003, bringing the newest vineyard equipment for outdoor display as well as supporting the show with an indoor booth. In addition, Vine Tech has been a luncheon sponsor at the meeting.