Moments from the 2014 Hort Show in Kennewick, Washington. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Moments from the 2014 Hort Show in Kennewick, Washington. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower file photo)

Anyone involved in agriculture knows that success is only possible with planning and preparation, combined with follow-through.

This is true whether you are growing fruit or planning the tree fruit industry’s largest annual conference and trade show.

With this in mind, a dedicated team of Washington State Tree Fruit Association staff and industry volunteers has been meeting regularly since early March to plan the 113th WSTFA Annual Meeting and Hort Expo.

The convention will take place Dec. 4-6 at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Washington.

The theme: “Finding Opportunity in Constant Market Changes.” In selecting this theme, the committee thought that although the tree fruit industry has enjoyed mostly good times in recent years, the good times can’t last forever.

In fact, they shouldn’t last forever. Economic contractions are an integral part of a healthy business cycle.

Although painful at the time, our industry has emerged stronger and more competitive than ever from every down cycle that we’ve had in the past.

Dan Plath, Washington Fruit & Produce Company, in Yakima, Washington, on October 3, 2017. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Dan Plath

We don’t know when the next storm will be, but hopefully there will be things that you take from this year’s meeting to help you weather it and emerge prepared to prosper in better times.

In keeping with the conference theme, this year’s Batjer Address will be given by Michael Swanson, Ph.D., chief agricultural economist at Wells Fargo Bank.

Dr. Swanson will talk about broader economic trends in agriculture today, how they are likely to impact the tree fruit industry, and what a good producer can and should do about them. In an environment of constant change, not every change is an opportunity, and it is equally essential to identify which changes we need to respond to and when.

As always, the conference will include sessions on a variety of issues of interest to growers, packers and marketers of tree fruit.

These include labor and technology, organics, pests and diseases, crop load management, food safety, and more. Many of these topics will also be covered in a dedicated Spanish-language program on Dec. 5.

We expect in excess of 1,800 attendees for this year’s event, most of whom arrive Monday morning just before the start of the conference. In an effort to minimize wait times and make the registration and credential pickup process as efficient as possible, we are again offering early check-in Sunday evening.

Winter travel can cause last-minute changes to the agenda. The most up-to-date version of the agenda is available on the WSTFA annual meeting app, which can be downloaded at We encourage you to download the app as it also allows us to send you notifications and for you to provide us feedback on the event.

In 2015, we transitioned from printed to electronic conference proceedings so that our members could have access to recordings of all the presentations.

The electronic proceedings include a recording of the audio of each speaker along with the video of their slide presentations. This is particularly valuable for speakers with significant research data that would otherwise be hard to recall.

The proceedings are available on a flash drive for only $25 and can be ordered when you register or after the conference. Recordings of the 2016 conference are still available as well.

In addition to the formal sessions, please take the time to learn by talking to researchers, attending break-out sessions and walking through the Northwest Hort Expo. If you still need to register for the event, you can download a registration form at •

– by Dan Plath of Washington Fruit & Produce Co. is the conference chair for the Washington State Tree Fruit Association Annual Meeting and Northwest Hort Expo.