Apple Commission Changes Leadership

Ken Severn has been appointed interim director of the Washington Apple Commission until the board hires a new president. Dave Carlson, who has headed the Washington Apple Commission for the past five years, has been placed on paid administrative leave.

The board announced that it was putting Carlson on administrative leave following an executive session during its meeting on July 24. Board Chair Cragg Gilbert of Yakima said the board voted eight to one, with one abstention, to place Carlson on administrative leave beginning on September 1. Frank Davis of Yakima was the only board member voting against the move.

Gilbert declined to discuss reasons for the action, but said the board was grateful to Carlson for the contributions he made during his time as president. The commission later issued a statement saying that the board felt it was time to move forward in a new direction, with new leadership, and that there were no allegations of illegal activities by Carlson.

Carlson, a Yakima orchardist, was a commission board member for three years before being appointed interim manager of the commission in July 2003, when it was forced to downsize because of a federal court ruling. He had chaired its operations and finance committee.

In 2004, he was appointed president of the commission at an annual salary of $72,000. His current salary is $147,900. Gilbert said he did not know how long Carlson would be on administrative leave.

Board members Mark Zirkle and Dalton Thomas were appointed as a search committee to look for an interim president. They recommended Ken Severn, who served in a similar role for four months in 2000, between Steve Lutz leaving and Welcome Sauer being appointed.

Severn earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Washington in 1963 and worked in the marketing department for the Apple Commission from 1964 to 1966. In 1966, he was appointed marketing manager at the Washington State Fruit Commission. He became president in 1969 and retired from the Fruit Commission in 2000.

Carlson told Good Fruit Grower that he did not know what prompted the board’s decision. The week before the July 24 meeting, he had met with three board membersGeorge Allan, Mike Hambelton, and Gilbertwho told him that they wanted him to leave, but he had not been expecting the board to take action when it did. "I would say it came as a surprise," he said.

Gilbert said the Apple Commission’s board intends to spend about six months doing strategic planning and searching for a full-time president.

Apple Forecast

Washington State’s 2008 fresh apple crop is estimated at 99.6 million boxes, an increase from the last two crops, according to the Yakima Valley Growers-Shippers Association. The state’s production peaked in 2004 at 105 million boxes. The 2007 crop was 98.5 million boxes.

The volume of Red Delicious continues to decline. The 2008 volume is forecast at 31.0 million packed boxes, compared with 32.8 million a year ago and 61.4 million in 1994. This will be the smallest Red Delicious crop since 1985.

The Gala crop is estimated at a record 18.9 million boxes. Production of Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, and Cripps Pink is likely to be higher this year than a year ago, while production of Cameo and Braeburn will be down.

Washington’s 2008 organic apple crop is forecast at 5.9 million boxes, with Gala accounting for 25 percent of the total, and Fuji 17 percent.

The organic pear crop is estimated at 541,000 packed boxes, with Bartlett accounting for 47 percent of the total and d’Anjou 32 percent.

Soil Secrets

Did you know that there are more living creatures in a shovel-full of soil than people on the planet? Or that it can take up to 500 years to produce one inch of topsoil?

These and other facts about soil are revealed in a temporary exhibition called "Dig It! The Secrets of Soil," which opened in July in Washington, D.C., at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

The 5,000-square-foot exhibition reveals the complex world of soil and how this hidden ecosystem supports nearly every form of life on earth. It explains differences in soil types and features samples from all 53 U.S. states and territories and the District of Columbia. The physical properties of soils are examined, with color cards revealing mineral compositions, and "breathalyzers" detecting carbon dioxide from organisms.

The exhibit runs through January 2010. Information is available at the Web site

Brown Rot

Natural bacterial extracts show promise as alternatives to chemicals for treating fungal diseases, such as brown rot in peaches, U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists report.

Entomologist Dr. David Shapiro-Ilan and plant pathologist Charles Reilly at the Southeastern Fruit and Tree Nut Research Laboratory in Byron, Georgia, developed natural pesticides from two species of bacteria, Xenorhabdus bovienii and Photorhabdu luminescens, which are effective against common peach and pecan disease organisms that cause significant damage, according to information from the Agricultural Research Service. The scientists tested compounds from a variety of bacterial strains and species to determine which would be the most potent. Applications for patents have been submitted, and the USDA is seeking partners to develop the bacterial metabolites for commercial use.

Course for Small Farms

Washington State University Snohomish County Extension is presenting a semester-long course to explore the advantages available to small farmers. Classes for the course "Cultivating Success: Sustainable Small-acreage Farming and Ranching" will be held on Thursday evenings from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., starting September 11 at the University Center at Everett Station, Everett.

The course is designed for established farmers seeking to sustain their operations, as well as beginning farmers. Presenters will include local producers and university specialists with expertise in direct marketing, value-added processing, production planning, and more. Farm visits are scheduled. The cost of the 12-week course is $250 per farm or couple.

For information or to register, call Gabrielle Roesch at (425) 357-6011 or e-mail