They say farmers love talking about the weather.
Well, the 2022 Washington State Tree Fruit Association Annual Meeting should be a farmer’s dream. Climate and weather will be one of the highlights at the conference, often called the Hort Show, Dec. 5–7 at the Wenatchee Convention Center.
A football Hall of Famer and longtime extension specialist will anchor the presentations, but climate will be one of the stars, too. The Day 1 afternoon session is dedicated to decision making under the specter of climate change, drought and unpredictable weather. The June 2021 heat dome and this year’s bloom-time snow are just recent examples.
“We want to learn from each of these and hopefully equip ourselves …. and still produce the world’s best apples,” said Jared England, general manager of Manson Growers and chair of the annual meeting.
Cliff Mass, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Washington, will speak. He specializes in numerical modeling and prediction, topography in weather, regional climate modeling and Pacific Northwest weather. He also manages the Cliff Mass Weather Blog website, and in 2021 the University of Washington Press published the second edition of his book: “The Weather of the Pacific Northwest.”
The meeting’s theme is “Stronger Together.”
Aside from weather, the fruit industry is stressed by regulatory changes, labor scarcity, shipping challenges and rising costs of fertilizer and diesel.
“We are better equipped to meet these challenges as an industry if we’re working together,” England said.
Fruit shippers have always been — and should be — competitive, he said, but he recalls decades when the industry seemed more united behind the Washington label.
“It feels more fragmented these days,” he said.
England finds parallels in professional football and hopes former Seattle Seahawks star receiver Steve Largent does, too, when he gives the keynote address on opening day. The National Football League is one of the most successful sports brands on the planet, even though each team competes fiercely during the season.
England also hopes Largent’s name recognition generates excitement, as well as his perspectives on teamwork, policy and business. Largent played 14 seasons with the Seahawks and long held several team and league receiving records. After retiring from the game, he went on to a political career in his home state of Oklahoma, serving from 1994 to 2001 as a Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives. After leaving office, he served 11 years as president and CEO of the national trade association for the wireless communication industry.
Also on Day 1, Karen Lewis, director of Washington State University Extension’s agriculture and natural resources program, will deliver the Batjer Address, the marquee academic presentation of the annual meeting.
As usual, Day 2 of the conference will feature breakout sessions, including some in Spanish, and the annual awards banquet, where Good Fruit Grower honors the Grower of the Year, chosen by the magazine’s advisory board. The conference will wrap up Wednesday morning.
Educational presentations will be held upstairs in the Wenatchee Convention Center, while the accompanying Northwest Hort Expo takes place on the lower floor and in the nearby Town Toyota Center. A free shuttle will be available between the two locations.
The annual meeting rotates each year between Wenatchee, the Tri-Cities and Yakima.
For more information, or to register for the annual meeting, visit: wstfa.org/annual-meeting.
—by Ross Courtney