Gratitude was a common theme for Denny Hayden, Keith Oliver, Mike Taylor and Ofelio Borges, who joined the Douglas family to receive awards and congratulations Tuesday evening at the Washington State Tree Fruit Association Annual Meeting and NW Hort Show awards banquet.
Douglas Fruit, a vertically integrated stone fruit producer near Pasco, was honored as the Good Fruit Grower 2023 Growers of the Year, selected by the magazine’s advisory board.
The publication, which sponsors the awards banquet, announced the award in its December issue, but six members of the Douglas family accepted the honor from the magazine’s managing editor, Shannon Dininny, at the banquet.
“I feel lucky and blessed to be able to work with family,” said David Douglas.
Borges, a program manager for the Washington State Department of Agriculture, received the Latino Leadership Award earlier in the day during the Spanish-language sessions he helps organize every year.
Born in Hidalgo, Mexico, he served in the Mexican Air Force before moving to the United States to work in the tree fruit industry for 35 years. Now, he is a program manager for technical services and education. He also is one of the main creators of the pesticide training programs in Washington and the new Agricultural Leadership Program.
“He shaped the workforce in Washington state in English and in Spanish as well,” said longtime friend Dave Gleason of Domex Superfresh Growers, who presented the honor.
Borges called his career in the fruit industry an honor and a privilege.
“I just can’t imagine my life being different,” he said.
The Washington Tree Fruit Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes industry contributions over a long time, went to Denny Hayden, a Pasco-area fruit grower.
Hayden is a board member and past president of the Northwest Cherry Growers, the 2001 Cherry King winner and Good Fruit Grower’s 2005 Grower of the Year. He also has served on the boards of the Washington State Fruit Commission and Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission for more than 20 years. In 2020, he was given the Stewardship Award by the Mid-Columbia Ag Hall of Fame.
“I think that we need to step back and be pretty thankful for what we do for a living in the fruit industry,” he said.
The Silver Apple award went to Oliver, longtime orchard manager for Olsen Bros. Ranches near Prosser.
Known for hosting field days and sharing information, Oliver serves on the Washington Commission on Integrated Pest Management, the advisory board for the Washington State University Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems, Washington Blueberry Commission research committee and the Washington State Grape Society board.
He has a bachelor’s degree in plant science from the University of California, Davis.
“It has been my pleasure,” Oliver said.
Taylor, senior vice president of Stemilt Growers in Wenatchee, takes this year’s Silver Pear award.
Taylor oversees the company’s orchard management business and in-house research and development team. With him as lead advocate, Stemilt has launched its Happi Pear variety and opened a new pear production facility. He is a board member of the Pear Bureau Northwest, participates in the Washington Pear Marketing Association and is a past board member of the Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service.
Taylor and his family also grow fresh pears, as well as cherries and apples, in the Wenatchee and Entiat valleys.
Taylor called the pear industry exciting.
“I think it’s ready to explode with change, and so I couldn’t be more excited to be on the forefront of it,” he said.
The Silver Apple and Silver Pear awards are given each year to individuals who advance the industry.
—by Ross Courtney