Retiring President Mo Tougas and his family were named Growers of the Year.

Retiring President Mo Tougas and his family were named Growers of the Year.

At its awards banquet in Boston last night (February 26), the International Tree Fruit Association gave recognition to fruit growers, researchers, and extension specialists who have, over the years, furthered the fruit production cause.

The Outstanding Industry Service Award went to Elwin “Stub” Hardy, a New Hampshire fruit grower who died January 22 at the age of 92. His family’s Brookdale Fruit Farm, near Hollis, New Hampshire, was visited the day of the banquet by seven busloads of IFTA visitors.

Hardy brought dwarfing rootstocks to New England in the 1960s and chaired IFTA’s rootstock research committee for 21 years.
“I come to pay tribute to a great man,” said Maryland grower Evan Milburn, who handed the award to Hardy’s son, Chip.

The late Dr. Arthur H. Thompson, a University of Maryland professor who retired in 1983, was inducted into the IFTA Hall of Fame. “He brought chemical thinning to the East Coast,” said Maryland grower Bob Black, who presented the award to Thompson’s daughter Janet Freiland. “He was an early fan of the Gala apple.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. David Rosenberger, the Cornell University plant pathologist who has helped growers battle apple scab, fireblight, and a host of other diseases since coming to New York more than 30 years ago. He leads the fruit team at Cornell and announced he will retire toward the end of this year. Cornell’s Dr. Terence Robinson presented the award to his colleague.

The Outstanding Extension Award was presented jointly to University of Massachusetts Jon Clements and Rutgers University’s Win Cowgill. The two have worked together to help growers adapt to and use modern communications technology. In 1995, they created the e-mail listserv Virtual Orchard, in which growers and researchers share questions and answers through e-mail. They have generated videos addressing fruit production practices, such as pruning trees and planting tall spindle apple orchards, that can be found on YouTube.

The IFTA Grower of the Year Award went to the Tougas Family Farm in Northboro, Massachusetts. Maurice “Mo,” his wife Phyllis, and son Andre are partners in the 185-acre farm they started in 1981 and the you-pick and retail operation they built. Tougas finished the year as president of IFTA by hosting a visit to his farm that day.

“Mo is passionate about fruit production,” said Phil Schwallier in presenting the award. “He believes in IFTA and works hard to educate himself and others and to adopt new ways of doing things.”

Schwallier, an extension fruit educator from Michigan’s Fruit Ridge, is the new IFTA president.

During the week-long annual conference, two new board members were elected. They are Hank Markgraf, who works for British Columbia Fruit Growers, and Wanda Heuser Gale, who works with her father Wally at Summit Trees Sales in Lawrence, Michigan. Wally Heuser was a founder of IFTA 56 years ago and attended the conference.

The meeting in Boston drew more than 300 growers who came from 12 countries, 26 states, and five provinces of Canada.