The virtual meeting format didn’t stop the Washington tree fruit industry from recognizing industry leaders with awards on Monday.
Washington State Tree Fruit Association chair Sean Gilbert presented the Silver Apple, Silver Pear, and Distinguished Service awards.
The Silver Apple Award was given to Rob Lynch of Yakima, recognizing his passion for science-informed fruit growing, his advocacy for growers, and his leadership with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, Washington Growers League, and the Pom Club, Gilbert said. Unfortunately, Lynch died on Nov. 13 after a long illness, so his friend, Mike Taylor of Wenatchee, accepted the award on his behalf.
“Growing fruit is part art and part science. You have to have the scientific approach, but you have to be creative. Rob embodied that,” Taylor said. Lynch was the first chair of the research commission’s technology committee and led the push for grower-friendly innovation for many years. Taylor praised Lynch’s “active mind and enduring spirit,” as well as his willingness to show up for anyone in the industry who needed help.
“Rob strove to solve problems, not for himself, but for everybody,” Taylor said. “Rob, you will never be forgotten and you are dearly missed.”
The Silver Pear Award was given to Jason Matson, a fifth-generation grower from Selah who started in the pear industry at field days when he was about 6 years old. Gilbert praised Matson’s leadership on the research commission’s committees for pears and technology, as well as involvement with the tree fruit endowment advisory committee.
“I’d like to thank the researchers for enduring my questioning and I’d like to thank my friends for always challenging me mentally with their tough questions,” Matson said.
He also thanked the people at his company, Matson Fruit, who cover for him on the job while he’s working with the wider industry, be it at field days or committee workshops.
Gilbert presented the Distinguished Service Award to Charlie de la Chapelle, a retired grower from Yakima who continues to champion the industry. Through his career, de la Chapelle served on many industry boards and committees, including the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, the Northwest Horticultural Council’s science advisory committee, the International Fruit Tree Association, the fruit commission’s technology roadmap, water issues, and with the Yakima Pom Club.
“Change is something the industry is good at,” de la Chapelle said. “It doesn’t work without volunteers.”
He said he learned from his father, Charles de la Chapelle, and his uncle, Cragg Gilbert, that in the tree fruit industry, “you have a responsibility to pull your weight,” he said, and to volunteer.
“I appreciate what the industry has done for me,” he said. “You have a great future ahead because you have some of the best people coming up.”
The Latino Leadership Award was presented to Pedro Serrano, who served for many years with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries and now runs his own consulting firm, Serrano Safety, which provides on-farm safety training and consultations in English and Spanish.
Serrano, who came to the U.S. as an immigrant farmworker, said he wanted to accept his award on behalf of the Latino community — “a community that works hard on behalf of their families,” he said. “A community that takes the risks while many of us stay safe.”
Living in the U.S. without proper documentation is not easy right now, Serrano said, and he encouraged immigrants who work hard for a better life for themselves and their families to take pride in that and advocate for themselves.
“To all the dreamers, for the young people, for all the immigrants, this award is for you,” he said. “We all want to be safe, we all want to be happy, and we all want to be welcome in our communities.”
Lastly, Shannon Dininny, managing editor of Good Fruit Grower, presented the Good Fruit Grower of the Year Award to Rod Farrow of Waterport, New York. Farrow, a leader in precision horticulture and new variety development, was chosen by the magazine’s advisory board.
“This award is especially meaningful to the staff of the Good Fruit Grower, as we have all benefited from Rod’s generosity — generosity in time, expertise, patience and understanding of our shared mission to educate growers,” Dininny said.
Farrow thanked his team at Lamont Fruit Farm.
“As growers, our careers entwined with everyone it takes to operate the farm, making this a real team effort,” he said.
He also thanked his mentor, George Lamont, who hired him decades ago and eventually brought him on as partner. Lamont died in March.
“None of this would have been possible without his vision, mentoring and willingness to sell his fifth-generation farm to me,” Farrow said. Read all about Farrow’s farm and career in Good Fruit Grower’s December issue.
—by Kate Prengaman