Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Foundation supports young growers to attend conference

The Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Foundation and Cherry Republic are helping four young growers from northwest Michigan attend the 2014 International Tree Fruit Association meeting in British Columbia.

Four young growers from northwest Michigan are headed to British Columbia at the end of February 2014 to attend the International Tree Fruit Association (IFTA) Annual Conference. The Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Foundation (NWMHRF) provided four scholarships of $1,000 per participant to help these growers attend this important educational conference. Participating young growers from northwest Michigan that will attend this year’s IFTA conference are Chris Alpers from Alpers and Redpath Orchards, Leelanau County; Adele Wunsch from Wunsch Farms, Old Mission Peninsula; and Calvin Lutz II and III from Lutz Farms, Manistee County.

The scholarships were provided through two funding sources: NWMHRF’s “Keep our Farmers Farming” fundraising campaign, and a donation to the NWMHRF from Cherry Republic. Both the NWMHRF board members and Bob Sutherland of Cherry Republic were pleased to see these funds used to expand the knowledge base of young farmers who will bring new ideas and concepts back to the region. As in every year, this IFTA conference has promised to showcase what Canadian growers are doing differently and innovatively—these young growers can bring back this experience to Michigan orchards.

IFTA works toward promoting an understanding of the nature and use of intensive orchard systems through dissemination of information as well as expanding the knowledge of tree fruit production by encouraging research efforts. IFTA was established in 1958 and is the leading international organization that advances the adoption of intensive orchard systems. The organization conducts an annual educational conference and publishes the conference proceedings and additional articles in the Compact Fruit Tree journal. IFTA also conducts an annual orchard tour during the summer months and sponsors other tree fruit study tours. Lastly, this group provides funding support for research projects through a newly established research fund.

This year’s conference will take place in Kelowna, British Columbia, Feb. 22-26, and conference attendees will have a chance to see both apple and cherry orchards. The pre-conference will kick off with an intensive fresh market sweet cherry workshop and a sweet cherry pruning demonstration. The main conference theme will be focused around precision orchard management, which includes precision management of orchards, tree care in the early years, varieties and precision harvesting.

Phil Schwallier, current President of IFTA and Michigan State University Extension district horticulturist from the Grand Rapids, Mich., area stated “This precision method of evaluating your operation is an eye-opener into the economics of every operation you perform on your farm. For any young grower just into the fruit business, this conference will provide you with a management foundation you will use for life.”

Schwallier has been very supportive of the NWMHRF’s efforts to help young growers attend the IFTA conference. The NWMHRF began awarding scholarships in 2013 and hopes to continue awarding scholarships into the future.

The Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Foundation continually supports the educational efforts of commercial fruit growers throughout Michigan, and these scholarships are another way to give back to the agricultural community. The NWMHRF board members and Sutherland are working together to find a way to support these educational scholarships on an annual basis.

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