A Look At Apple Grower Of The Year Winners 1989-2017 [Slideshow]

"Having a crew of talented, motivated people is the key to making this work. You can have all the ideas in the world, but you need the boots on the ground.” - Rod Farrow, 2017 Apple Grower of the Year
“It takes 10 to 11 years to make a profit, and that’s if there’s no hail or other weather events. I don’t think any banker would be excited by that. We’ve been able to get pay-backs in six years because of the ‘Ambrosia’ and ENZA varieties.” - Scott McDougall, 2016 Apple Grower Of The Year
“The thing about networking is, no matter how smart you are, there’s always someone smarter. You can’t predict how it will work out, but the more people you know, the better chance you have of finding success.” - Bill Dodd, 2015 Apple Grower Of The Year
“We were burned very badly in the first few years by biting off more than we could chew. The lesson I would tell the kids and grandkids is don’t ever extend yourselves and be careful how you invest your money.” - Bill and Jeannette Evans, 2014 Apple Growers Of The Year
“All projects come with headaches, but we deal with them. You have to do what you're comfortable with and what's best for your orchard. You have to be realistic.” - Cordell Watt, 2013 Apple Grower Of The Year
“They can be a headache, but these standards are important, and if we can better ourselves, and set the standard for the industry, that’s great.” - Jeff Leonardini, 2012 Apple Grower Of The Year
Unless you get out of your region and culture and see what people are doing elsewhere, things get stagnant. By traveling and seeing what others are doing, and if they have better ideas, that's how we progress and grow in our business.” - Mo Tougas (pictured with wife, Phyllis, and son Andre), 2011 Apple Grower Of The Year
“There's a wide array of apple varieties available for growers to consider planting, and the biggest thing you can do is match the variety to the micro climate, elevation, soil type, and site you are in. If you start with that and get the best available plant material, you've set the stage for a winning combination.” - Mike Taylor, 2010 Apple Grower Of The Year
“My father always told me to grow quality fruit first, last, and always. People are always looking for an excellent piece of good quality eating fruit. You'll always be successful if you work hard but smart. Grow the right thing and be willing to change. Find out what people's desires, wants, and preferences are, and grow to their needs rather than try to sell them what you have.” - Bill Zirkle (pictured with son, Mark), 2009 Apple Grower Of The Year
“Treat your labor with high respect and gratitude. Some people don’t realize that they are the ones making your living and success possible.” - Evan and Nathan Milburn, 2008 Apple Growers Of The Year
“Consumers are expecting a better product, and they’ll expect a stronger product tomorrow than today. This requires diligence and assurance every step of the way.” - Jeff Crist, 2007 Apple Grower Of The Year  
“We need to come up with something that consumers don’t even know they want yet.” - Dan Boyer, 2006 Apple Grower Of The Year
“Variety is the spice of life for retail farm marketers,” says Mount. If we have to sell something wholesale, then we’ve fallen down on the job.” - Gary Mount, 2005 Apple Grower Of The Year
“One of the reasons we’ve been able to survive these tough times is because we’ve had people who are really tied to the family and the land that we operate.” - Darrel Oakes, (pictured with family), 2004 Apple Grower Of The Year Darrel Oakes (third from left), is a co-owner at LynOaken Farms in Lyndonville, NY, along with, from left, his cousin Jeff Oakes, Darrel’s wife Linda, and his sister Wendy Wilson.
“Apple growing is very labor intensive, and without good people running the business, we can’t do anything.” - Ralph Broetje, 2003 Apple Grower Of The Year
“It’s still a very hands-on industry, and you need to work with the resources you have.” - Fred Valentine (pictured with fellow grower Bob Banning), 2002 Apple Grower Of The Year
“You tend to think that overproduction is hurting the industry, but I can’t honestly say that to be true. A lot of people think poor quality fruit or imports are hurting the industry. I don’t think it’s any one thing — it’s a combination of several things. If Model T Fords had been so popular there wouldn’t have been a need for Chevrolet or Chrysler.” - Greg Nix, 2001 Apple Grower Of The Year
“The high capital investment each year is difficult to make, since even one’s best planning cannot assure success of varieties in the marketplace. We often choose fresh fruit varieties which have value as processing apples as well to safeguard against volatile markets. Our planting strategy is tuned into our own marketing plans as well as industry trends.” - Brad Hollabaugh, 2000 Apple Grower Of The Year
“I think every grower has to be involved in organizations. If you aren’t involved, you’re walking around with blinders on. You have to know the pulse of what’s happening. Every meeting I go to I come back and ask, ‘what did I learn, what do I see as a trend, and how can I apply it to my operation?’” - Ed Wittenbach, 1999 Apple Grower Of The Year
“The weakest part of fruit growing these days is nobody wants to be a farmer. But if you get good, firm, well-colored produce, everything else will fall into place. You’ll have a good consistent pack. You can make a bad packout of good fruit . But you can’t make a good packout of bad fruit.” - George and David Allan, 1998 Apple Grower Of The Year
“We can be more effective working with the EPA while ideas are being developed. If you wait until the regulations have been written and then react to them, it becomes much more difficult.” - George Lamont, 1997 Apple Grower Of The Year
“If you’re the first to do something, chances are that people will seek you out as an authority.” - Doyle Fleming, 1996 Apple Grower Of The Year
“I can name dozens of growers who do a better job than me. But growing apples is so difficult, you don’t have to worry about being put out of business by helping someone.” - Mitch Lynd (pictured with family), 1995 Apple Grower Of The Year (Front row: Mitch, Lester, and David Lynd; back row (left to right) John Kammeyer, Steve Lynd, Dick Wander, and Andy Lynd
“My philosophy is we are growers. But we can’t exist unless we recognize the industry must come first. We need to look at this as a big corporation. Yet it doesn’t have a specific CEO but instead a good fractionated leadership from many growers.” - Chuck Peters, 1994 Apple Grower Of The Year
“You have to find out who the decision makers are, talk to them, and try to find out what they are thinking and what their priorities are. Then you have to make your case to them.” - Roscoe Crist, 1993 Apple Grower Of The Year (pictured with wife Marylou) about the need for funding for research
“All commodity groups in agriculture are going to be compelled to work closer together. We’re all trying to say pretty much the same thing, but we’re saying it differently.” - Harold and JoAnne Thome, 1992 Apple Growers Of The Year
“It’s getting very difficult to make a living with a small to medium apple operation in a wholesale market.”  - Steve Wood (pictured with son, Harry), 1991 Apple Grower Of The Year
“To be successful, growers have to look at the whole system — growing, harvesting, packing, and marketing.” - Grady Auvil, 1990 Apple Grower Of The Year
“The days when you could innocently sit back and just move your crop out or deliver it to the packing house and that was it — those days are gone. We have to be involved in the public arena. We have to be giving our side of the story. We need to anticipate problems rather than just react to them.” - John Rice, 1989 Apple Grower Of The Year


When American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines’ Apple Grower of the YearSM  award was launched in 1989, editor Gary Acuff wrote:

“In creating the ‘Apple Grower of the Year’ recognition, American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower magazines saw a need to identify apple growers who have gone beyond the confines of the orchard and have, through their involvement and leadership, made a real impact on the apple industry. No other national recognition exclusively geared for apple growers exists.”

John Rice was selected as the inaugural winner for serving as a spokesperson of for growers in light of the Alar crisis.

“Rice exemplifies the involved, dedicated individual American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower magazines had in mind when creating the award. He has made a difference in the industry, and sets an example that other growers can follow,” Acuff writes.

Since 1989, American Fruit Grower and Western Fruit Grower magazines have honored influential apple growers such as Grady Auvil, George Lamont, Bill Zirkle, and Ralph Broetje. We present a look at past winners of this prestigious award.

Here is the complete list of American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower®  magazines’ Apple Grower of the YearSM winners: