The following fruit industry members were honored during the Washington State Horticultural Association’s annual meeting in December.

Silver Apple

George Allan, a partner at the fruit growing and packing operation Allan Brothers in Naches, Washington, received the Silver Apple Award. Allan grew up in Naches and earned a degree in agricultural science from Washington State University. After serving for two years with the U.S. Army, including a year in South Korea, he returned to farm with his brother Dave Allan and joined the family business that had been founded in the 1930s by his father, Bob, and uncles Alex, John, and Walt.

Allan was president of the Hort Association in 1994 and chair of the Washington Apple Commission in 2004. He served on the board of trustees of the U.S. Apple Association for nine years and is a former board member of the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association.

His previous honors include being named Cherry King in 1998 by the Cherry Institute. He and Dave were named Good Fruit Growers of the Year by Good Fruit Grower magazine in 2000.

Silver Pear

Linda Bailey, vice president of operations for the Pear Bureau Northwest, received the Silver Pear Award. Bailey earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1979. She took what she expected to be a temporary job at the Pear Bureau the same year, intending eventually to become a teacher. Instead, she moved up the ranks from executive assistant to office manager to her current role. Presenting the award, incoming president Jeff Cleveringa said Bailey played a key role in consolidating numerous pear industry organizations under the federal marketing order and improving how pears are assessed and represented to the rest of the world. Coworkers have described her as a caring, genuine, dedicated, and hard-working person who makes those around her feel festive with her bright smile and good cheer.

Women’s leadership

Jennifer Witherbee, executive director of the Washington Apple Education Foundation, received the Women’s Leadership Award for Service. She joined the organization in 2001 after graduating from Eastern Oregon University with a degree in politics, philosophy, and economics, and last year completed her master’s in business administration from Washington State University. Under her leadership, the organization has greatly increased the number of students it supports with scholarships. This year, it is helping almost 200 students achieve their goal of a college education.

Witherbee is chair of the Washington State Secretary of State’s Charities Advisory Committee, is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ government relations committee, and serves on the executive steering committee of the Washington Scholarship Coalition.

Dr. Ute Chambers, recipient of the Women’s Leadership in Science award, has been manager and educator with Washington State University’s online Decision Aid System since 2009. She grew up in East Germany and earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in ecology from Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany. She earned a doctorate in applied entomology from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. After moving to the United States in 2007, she first worked as a postdoctoral research associate at Oregon State University in Corvallis where she developed integrated pest management strategies for hazelnuts and developed a passion for working with and helping growers.

Latino Leadership

Leo Garcia, lead faculty with Wenatchee Valley College’s tree fruit production and viticulture programs, received the Latino Leadership Award. Garcia heads the college’s Hispanic Orchard Employee Education Program, which has more than 1,300 graduates. Presenting the Latino Leadership Award, Karen Lewis, Washington State University Extension educator, said Garcia was instrumental in ensuring that the Wenatchee Valley College and Washington State University’s tree fruit production programs were fully articulated, and has been a leader in building partnerships and improving curricula. Most important of all has been his leadership in growing people, she added.

Distinguished Service to Dietrichs

The Michigan State Horticultural Society gave its distinguished service award to Al and Joe Dietrich, brothers who operate a 630-acre fruit farm called Riverview Orchards on Fruit Ridge near Conklin, Michigan. The award was presented during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Market Expo in December.

The Dietrich family settled on what was then 80 acres in 1853. Joe and Al are fifth-generation growers—and now partners with their sons, Ryan and Daniel.

Both Al and Joe have been active in leadership in the fruit industry.

Joe and his wife, Kathy, have three children, including Ryan. Joe is on the board of the MACMA apple committee, a Michigan Farm Bureau affiliate that sponsors the Michigan Processing Apple Growers, which bargains on price and other marketing terms with processors. He is also a director of Cherry Growers, Inc., a cooperative of about 100 growers of apples and cherries.

Al and his wife, Helen, have six children, one of whom, Daniel, is a partner, and has three children who represent the seventh generation on the farm. Daughter Laura was Michigan Apple Queen in 2008.

Al is a past president of MACMA apple committee.  He served on the Michigan Apple Committee and is a previous board member of the U.S. Apple Association.  Helen chairs the Farm Bureau Ag Labor Committee, and she represents migrant workers on several committees and is minority advisor to the Ottawa County Farm Service Agency board.  Helen manages payroll for the farm, while Kathy manages accounts payable.

The Dietrich family farm began as a traditional farm and gradually transitioned to fruit farming.  After years of brothers and cousins farming together, in 1984, Al and Joe and their cousins, Mike and Jim, split the farm into two orcharding operations. The cousins operate under the name Leo Dietrich and Sons, Leo being grandfather to the four cousins.

Together, the two enterprises operate Dietrich Orchards, a packing, storing, and shipping business. In that operation, they have CA storage capacity for 800,000 bushels of apples, and they grow and pack apples, cherries, and asparagus.

The apples are marketed by Riveridge Produce.

Earl Peterson cited for distinguished service

The Michigan State Horticultural Society gave a distinguished service award to Earl Peterson, an orchardist and entrepreneur who has had a major impact on the fruit industry in west central Michigan.

Born on the family fruit farm near Hart, Peterson left for college in 1965 and became a public school teacher. In 1971, he and his wife, Linda, purchased their first farm as a summertime occupation. Peterson left Hart Public Schools, where he was a principal, in 1979, to farm full time.

The Peterson family is now farming more than 2,500 acres, mostly tart cherries and peaches.

A major transition took place in 1984 when Earl started processing fruit for his farm and for local growers.  That business, Peterson Farms, now has three processing facilities in Oceana County, processing tart cherries, apples, sweet cherries, blueberries, peaches, juice, juice concentrates, and other products. It is the largest privately owned fruit processor in Michigan.

Other related companies have been started by the Peterson family—Cherry Technologies, Inc.; Oceana County Freezer Storage, Inc., which has capacity to freeze and store 180 million pounds of product; Peterson Farms Trucking; Oceana Technologies, a microbiological testing facility; Peterson Farms Fresh, Inc., which specializes in fresh-cut fruit, particularly apples.  Over 500 people are employed with Peterson Farms and affiliates.

Peterson Farms is a family business. Linda is the chief financial officer; son Aaron is president and chief executive officer; daughter Sarah Schlukebir is vice president of sales and marketing; and son Mark is vice president of operations.

Peterson has been involved in numerous  industry organizations. He is a member of the Cherry Industry Administrative Board and a past chair; member and past chair of CherrCo, a tart cherry marketing cooperative; Cherry Marketing Institute; and past chair of the Michigan Cherry Marketing Committee.  He was named Cherry Industry Person of the Year in 1986 and Outstanding Cooperator of the Oceana Soil and Water Conservation District in 1989. He received the Oceana County Ground Stewardship Award in 2004.

Grape Society honors Kercheval and Davenport

The Washington State Grape Society named longtime Prosser grape and tree fruit grower Virginia Taggares Kercheval as their Lloyd H. Porter Grower of the Year. Kercheval received the award during the Grape Society’s annual meeting held in mid-November in Grandview.

Kercheval started at a young age in the family farming business, helping her father Pete Taggares, Sr., load three-pound grape lugs for shipment to winemakers in Chicago when she was five years old. At 14 years, she managed the family grocery store. Eventually, Kercheval was put in charge of the farming operations at the home place in Prosser, which included 200 acres of Concord and wine grapes, and 60 acres of apples and juice grapes in Grandview.

When Kercheval’s brother Pete Taggares, Jr., branched out on his own to develop the 2,500-acre Snake River Vineyards, in partnership with Seneca Foods, she and her husband, Ron, moved into temporary housing near the vineyard in Burbank to help develop the vineyard. Later, she and her husband became partners in Kenyon Cold Storage in Prosser and Grandview.

Kercheval, now in her 80s, and her sister Florence still actively farm the Prosser and Grandview orchards and vineyards.

Industry service

Dr. Joan Davenport, Washington State University soil scientist, was recognized for her years of service to the Washington grape industry with the Walter Clore Industry Service award.

Davenport, known as “Dr. Dirt,” joined the WSU faculty in 1997 at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser, where she does classroom teaching, soil and nutrition research, and grower outreach. Before coming to Prosser, Davenport worked with cranberries, spending nine years as manager of the agricultural research group at Ocean Spray headquarters in Lakeville/Middleboro, Massachusetts. Before that, she was a postdoctoral research associate for WSU, working on tree fruit nutrition at the Wenatchee research center.

Davenport is a member of the Grape Society’s board of directors and chairs the organization’s scholarship committee. For many years, she has coordinated speaker presentations during the annual meeting.

In 2005, Davenport and her husband, Gordon Taylor, launched their own winery in Prosser called DavenLore. With Taylor as the winemaker and Davenport focused on soil and vineyard management, the couple specializes in making high-quality, small-lot red blends and varietals.

Distinguished scientist of the year

Dr. Marshall Johnson, University of California Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside, has received the Distinguished Scientist of the Year Award from the International Organization for Biological Control — Nearctic Regional Section (encompassing the United States and Canada).

Johnson is based at the UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Parlier. Known internationally, much of his work has focused on the integration of natural enemies into systems where heavy pesticide use is common, such as vegetable crops.

Johnson studies the relationships between economically important pests and their natural enemies, and uses the information to enhance biological control, thereby improving pest control and reducing reliance on insecticides.

His current emphasis is on pest problems in perennial tree crops and vineyards in California’s Central Valley, including the glassy-winged sharpshooter, the oriental fruit moth, and the tenlined June beetle.

He has published more than 240 journal articles and book chapters. He has served as an editor of the journal Biological Control – Theory and Application in Pest Management and is on the journal’s editorial board.

The Department of Entomology at UC Riverside is a world leader in the area of biological control. Several of its faculty members have won this award, including Richard Stouthamer (2010), Robert F. Luck (2003), and James A. McMurtry (2001).

The International Organization for Biological Control is a global organization, divided into six regions, and focuses on the use of natural enemies to control undesirable insects, noxious weeds, and other pests.