For the second year in a row, American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® sponsored a reception prior to the International Fruit Tree’s (IFTA) annual banquet. This reception brought together the next generation of tree fruit growers and young professionals in the industry. Prior to the event, young professionals were asked about the challenges they face entering the industry and what information they’d be interested in learning about.
The informal discussion was held, with questions based on the young professionals’ responses. The discussion focused on some key topics such as getting older generations to embrace technology, earning respect in the industry, the transition of ownership from one generation to the next, and time management.
Young Professionals Manus Boonzaier and Lindsey Morrison were joined by IFTA Past President Mo Tougas and IFTA Board Member Wanda Heuser Gale to help lead the discussion about the challenges in becoming future industry leaders.
The panelists highlighted the unique challenges young professionals face as they begin careers in the tree fruit industry, and offered some take-home advice.
Both Tougas and Heuser Gale suggested young professionals looking to take over the family business should begin discussions as soon as possible. And, as one attendee remarked, don’t expect to just take over the business. If a young grower is interested in transitioning to ownership and a parent is unwilling to turn over the reins, the attendee suggested the young professional find another farm to pursue a career with.
For those young professionals meeting some headwinds in introducing new technology, new varieties, and growing systems, etc., within their family businesses, “bring them to IFTA,” Tougas said.
However, don’t expect to change everything all at once – it may have to be gradual, the panelists said.