The Washington State Tree Fruit Association bestowed several awards for service to the industry at its annual meeting Tuesday night.
Jay Brunner received one of three Distinguished Service Awards after more than 30 years at Washington State University as an entomologist and, later, director of the Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center, where he played a key role in the transition to softer pest management programs in tree fruits over the past three decades.
Brunner has said the approach he brought to his research position at WSU was based on his philosophy of humankind’s responsibility as a steward of natural resources and accountability to society.
He retired as director in 2015. “Thank you very much, and I’m enjoying retirement,” Brunner said when receiving the award.
The other two went to managers of two now closed tree fruit industry organizations also were honored Tuesday with Charlie Pomianek was the manager of the Wenatchee Valley Traffic Association, while Kirk Mayer was the manager of the Washington Growers Clearing House.
Both organizations were two of the four that dissolved to merge into the Washington State Tree Fruit Association in 2014.
“Change is good, so never forget that,” Pomianek said.
The Silver Apple Award went to Mike Robinson, a grower in Royal Slope, Washington, who also serves as general manager of Double Diamond Fruit, a growing and packing operation in Quincy, Washington.
A skilled horticulturist, Robinson has worked at several of the Pacific Northwest’s leading fruit companies over the years, including Auvil Fruit Co. and Stemilt Growers, and has long been viewed as an asset to the research and extension community, as well as other growers, for his participation in research trials, field days and conference presentations and his willingness to share his knowledge and experiences. “I’ve had a ball,” Robinson said.
A leading researcher on cherries and pears in the Pacific Northwest received the Silver Pear Award: Todd Einhorn.
Einhorn’s research at Oregon State University’s Mid-Columbia Agricultural Research and Extension Center focused on production efficiency in orchard systems, pear and cherry fruit quality attributes, pear conditioning and ripening, and rootstocks and cultivars.
He moved to Michigan last fall, where he will continue his work in Michigan State University’s Department of Horticulture.
The Latino Leadership Award went to Francisco Sarmiento, a faculty member at Wenatchee Valley College in Wenatchee, Washington. Sarmiento is the lead faculty member in the Hispanic Orchard Employee Education Program, which includes a viticulture track, offered at WVC and Yakima Valley College.
He has been a longtime supporter of education and champion for students becoming leaders in the fruit industry; an estimated 1,000 industry employees have completed the program since he joined WVC 19 years ago.
“I’m very humbled to receive this recognition,” Sarmiento said, adding the industry “has a good vibe this year.”
– by Shannon Dininny and Ross Courtney