John Carter, a longtime cherry grower in The Dalles, Oregon, and former Good Fruit Grower of the Year, died Aug. 9 following an illness.

A fierce proponent of industry research during his career, Carter was credited with helping to restart the cherry breeding program at Washington State University and advocated for the cherry rootstock program at Michigan State University. He also spearheaded efforts to bring the Regina variety to the region from Germany.

“It really is one of his legacies,” nearby grower Stacey Cooper of Cooper Family Orchard said.

Portrait of John Carter, the 2010 Good Fruit Grower of the Year. (Good Fruit Grower)
Portrait of John Carter, the 2010 Good Fruit Grower of the Year. (Good Fruit Grower)

Carter moved from Southern California to The Dalles in the mid-1970s after purchasing an 80-acre cherry orchard. With an engineering background, the novice farmer watched his neighbors, sought advice from extension agents and applied his science training to fruit production, growing his farm to some 350 acres of cherries and apples.

For someone who was not born in the cherry industry, “he definitely had cherries in his blood,” Cooper said.

“He was always pushing the envelope, looking for a new way of doing things. And he was always going down the, as we called it, voodoo trail,” she said with a laugh. “He wasn’t organic, but he looked at and considered all avenues.”

Over the years, Carter held leadership positions in many industry organizations, including the Oregon Sweet Cherry Commission, the commission’s research committee, the Oregon Cherry Growers Cooperative, National Cherry Growers and Industries Foundation and Oregon Horticultural Society.

In 2010, Carter was named Grower of the Year by Good Fruit Grower magazine, as well as the 67th cherry king at the annual Cherry Institute.

Carter is survived by his wife, Karen Carter; sons John D. Carter (wife Anna) and Michael Carter (wife Alisa); daughter Katherine Carter (husband Ali Motlagh); grandson Nema Carter and sister Jan Perkins.

—by Shannon Dininny