The Washington State Tree Fruit Association is proud to host the 119th Annual Meeting and NW Hort Expo from Dec. 4–6. The meeting this year will take place at the Three Rivers Convention Center in Kennewick, Washington. It is hard to believe, but the last time we had the opportunity to gather for this event in the Tri-Cities was in 2017.
The WSTFA staff, annual meeting planning committee and volunteers have been meeting regularly since March to prepare for this gathering. We are all excited to present the sessions we’ve been working on centered around this year’s theme: “Deep Roots, New Strategies: Innovative Thinking for Today’s Challenges.” I would like to offer my appreciation and gratitude for the combined efforts of everyone involved for pulling together and making this meeting possible.
People who make their living in agriculture know that every year is different. Inconsistency has certainly been consistent over the past several years, to say the least. Adapting to factors that are out of our control is an ongoing part of working in this business, but we are committed to the land and seeing the job through, even when our plans get turned sideways. The practice of being a tree fruit farmer is one that is deeply rooted, both in the agricultural practices used by farmers every day, but also in the expensive investment undeniably connected to the ground being farmed. When new challenges are thrown our way, we can’t simply fold up our operation like a laptop and take it with us.
It takes new strategies and innovative thinking to adapt to the many challenges producers are facing. From difficult markets, extreme weather and rising costs to burdensome regulation and labor uncertainty, even the best producers are finding it more difficult to sustain profitability in this business environment. With a deep-rooted and perseverance-driven mindset, the tree fruit industry has always been in a constant evolution of practices to meet the challenges of today for tomorrow’s success.
Our keynote speaker will offer us a high-level look at global market events that affect agriculture worldwide. David Magaña is a vice president and senior analyst for Rabobank’s RaboResearch Food and Agribusiness group. Based in California, Magaña is responsible for covering and analyzing the U.S. and North American fresh fruit, vegetable and tree nut industries. He has a strong background in agriculture and works together with an international team to collect key insights into commodity markets, conduct in-depth analysis of the factors that drive sector success or failure and examine the megatrends that ultimately influence clients’ business strategies.
Staying consistent with this year’s theme, the Batjer Address will be given by David Granatstein, professor emeritus at Washington State University. Granatstein will look back at the evolution of sustainability in the food system over the course of his professional career and how the tree fruit industry has participated.
As always, the conference will include sessions that cover a variety of topics, from profitability, climate and new technology to horticulture, organics and workforce issues. We’ll also take a deep dive into pear issues with a dedicated session on Tuesday. Many of the topics from these sessions will also be available in a dedicated all-day Spanish session that takes place Tuesday, Dec. 5. Pesticide credits will be available on Monday and Tuesday. As always, there’s also more to see and learn in the trade show held throughout the meeting.
Winter weather has been known to cause last-minute changes to people’s plans, therefore we ask you to check for the most up-to-date version of the agenda on the WSTFA annual meeting app, which can be downloaded at wstfa.org. We encourage you to take advantage of the app as it allows us to send you notifications of updated information or schedule changes and gives you the ability to provide us feedback on the event.
Lastly, I would like to thank all the sponsors for their financial contributions that help make this convention a success. There are certain people we only get to see once a year, and platforms like this one let us reconnect with those from outside our home base. We all share in the benefit when we come together in collaboration and support of one another. This spirit of teamwork within our industry is something that we can all be proud of and must strive to carry on, as the results have helped us all to improve over the years. On behalf of the entire WSTFA team, we look forward to seeing everyone this December in Kennewick.
—by Marty Olsen
Marty Olsen is a grower from Prosser, Washington, and the committee chair for the 2023 Washington State Tree Fruit Association Annual Meeting.