The Michigan State Horticultural Society gave out two Distinguished Service Awards during the 2021 Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO banquet on Dec. 8. The awards were presented to grape and cherry grower Ed Oxley, and the late Larry Gut, a former professor and tree fruit entomologist at Michigan State University.
Oxley grew up in Lawton, Michigan. He and his wife of 58 years, Phyllis, raised three sons. They bought their first 50 acres in Lawton in 1967 and picked their first grape crop that fall. They planted their first wine grapes in 1970. They continued adding properties over the years and presently farm 673 acres of grapes, consisting of 24 varieties, and 200 acres of tart cherries.
Oxley is a former president and secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Grape Society, former member of the Welch Foods board of directors and the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. He’s a current member of the National Grape Cooperative, Van Buren County Farm Bureau and Fruit Hill Growers, and he is on the board of directors of St. Julian Wine Co., the oldest and largest winery in the state.
Oxley has worked closely with Michigan State University researchers on grape and cherry trials over the years. He’s built much of his own equipment, including sprayers, harvesters and gondolas.
Longtime MSU professor Lawrence “Larry” Gut died Sept. 6 in Wenatchee, Washington, where he had recently moved with his wife, Kathleen, to be near family and friends in his retirement.
Gut was born in Southern California, where he spent his childhood and undergraduate years. His first experience in agriculture was working in a California almond orchard to help pay for college. As a biology student at California State University, Chico, Gut was inspired to join the field of integrated pest management after reading Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.” He decided to dedicate his life to helping growers find sustainable solutions to managing pests.
Gut received his doctorate in entomology from Oregon State University in 1985. His mentor, Peter Westigard, taught him that working closely with growers through on-farm research projects was the best way to inspire change. In addition, Gut found tree fruit growers to be great collaborators and friends.
Gut met and married Kathleen in 1991, and they had four children. Since he arrived in Michigan in 1997, Gut’s program contributed to a foundation that allowed tree fruit industries to respond to changes in the availability and efficacy of insecticides in a proactive manner. His team of students and collaborators developed novel insights into how moths communicate using sex pheromones, then they used that knowledge to design more effective, economical and environmentally friendly strategies to protect Michigan’s tree fruit.
Scientists and growers around the world invited Gut to share his expertise in many international venues. He was deeply committed to his extension mission, communicating his research findings through numerous publications and presentations. He also focused considerable attention on training the next generation of tree fruit entomologists. For his commitment to delivering on all components of the land-grant mission, Gut was awarded MSU’s prestigious William J. Beal Outstanding Faculty Award in 2021.
—by Matt Milkovich