Competition for this year’s Apple Grower of the Year Award was fierce, and although Mo Tougas took top honors, the growers listed below also had outstanding nominations. We’d like to recognize these four finalists for exhibiting all the qualities of a top apple grower, and for all their contributions to the U.S. apple industry. The information provided comes directly from those who nominated each finalist.
Todd Davis, Davis Orchards Inc.
Todd Davis is president and manager of Davis Orchards Inc., a third generation family-owned apple growing and packing operation. Davis Orchards grows and packs more than 250,000 boxes of high-quality apples annually. The apples are marketed under the Star Ranch label. Todd is the ongoing president of the Blue Mountain Horticulture Society and a member of the Washington State Horticultural Society. He has been a champion and supporter of several programs to develop and implement integrated pest management techniques in the Walla Walla Valley and has facilitated close collaboration with the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension, the Oregon Department of Agriculture, Department of Environmental Quality, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. Indeed, Todd was instrumental in Davis Orchards receiving the Umatilla County Soil and Water Conservation District of the Year, 2010 award. Todd is on the leading edge of high-density orchard design and implementation, composting, soil solutions, and the use of soil and weather monitoring stations to fine tune pest and disease modeling in conjunction with OSU and Washington State University researchers and Extension.
Enon Valley, PA
Carolyn is a second generation apple grower who is a very innovative and successful grower and marketer. She is active in the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania, as well as Greenstar Cooperative in Greenford, OH. After the sudden unexpected death of her husband more than 15 years ago, Carolyn continued to carry on the orchard and has done a wonderful job of management and using state-of-the-art growing methods for both peaches and apples. She could have just as easily walked away after Kevin’s death, but she chose to carry on and she has been quite successful. Her children are involved in the operation, as well. I feel she would be an excellent choice for this honor.
Fritz Wafler, 83, passed away on March 11, 2011. Fritz was an icon in the New York apple industry, as well as a respected grower and horticulturist in the national apple industry. Everyone that knew Fritz, and most growers did, knew him for his great knowledge of apple farming and for his entrepreneur qualities that helped build his family farm and nursery business from scratch. He emigrated from Switzerland in 1952. Wafler Farms, situated just a few miles from Lake Ontario, is a cutting edge and progressive operation that has partnered with other growers to build CA storages and packing facilities. Wafler Nurseries is a leading apple nursery in the Northeast, known for high quality and high standards, both characteristics taught by Fritz. He led a number of fruit grower tours to Europe to learn more about growing apples.
Fritz began growing trees for himself when he could not buy trees on the new semi-dwarfing and dwarfing rootstocks. Neighbors wanted a few also and this eventually grew into a large part of the business.
At Timber Ridge Fruit Farm, Cordell is a very mindful and progressive grower. He keeps his trees uniform and at a manageable size for harvesting and spraying while still allowing for maximum fruit production. As an innovator, Cordell has his own fresh market packing shed where he packages apples and sells to other farm markets and stores in the state. Instead of trying to boil the ocean, he has taken a select approach to the market, developing his own niche.
Some processing growers continue to scale back or disappear. Cordell has adapted his operation to newer markets. He has adopted new, “reduced risk” chemistry, such as Altacor (chlorantraniliprole, DuPont Crop Protection) and Delegate (spinetoram, Dow AgroSciences), which are softer on beneficial insects. Cordell has stepped up and is implementing apple and peach field trials developed by Virginia Tech to help find ways to control and manage the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). These trials will be monitored and evaluated, providing information that will be critical in the future as we continue to battle against BMSB. Cordell also serves on the Frederick County Fruit Growers Association.