Jun 13, 2012
Dodd takes the reins at Premier Apple Cooperative

Bill Dodd can’t help but to be heavily involved in the apple industry. It suits his personality, as well as his philosophy, about what it takes for the industry to thrive.

“There’s a lot to be said for working together,” he said.

Dodd runs Hillcrest Orchards in Amherst, Ohio, with help from his wife, Diane, and two of his three grown children. They grow about 30 acres of apples and host seasonal agritainment activities, he said.

Now 53, Dodd represents the fourth generation of his family to run the farm. The house he lives in is the house where both he and his father grew up. But even though he wants to maintain the family tradition and keep his hands in fruit growing at some level, he considers himself more of a hobby farmer these days. His top priority is running the Ohio Fruit Growers Marketing Association (OFGMA), the cooperative that was formed in 1957 to market Ohio apples, he said.

He’s also director of the Ohio Apples Marketing Program (OAMP), president of the Midwest Apple Improvement Association, vice chairman of the U.S. Apple Association and a member of the International Fruit Tree Association’s board of directors. Also, on June 1 he’ll become executive director of the Premier Apple Cooperative.

His involvement in the industry started with OFGMA. He was a member of the board of directors for 17 years, until the president decided to retire in 2004. When that happened, the board named Dodd president. He was encouraged to get out and build a network of industry contacts. That wasn’t difficult.

“I’m a people person,” Dodd said. “The other people involved in these organizations are the elite people in the industry. If you want to succeed, you surround yourself with successful people.”

Dodd started attending meetings for various organizations, and eventually was asked to serve on boards.

“If you go to enough meetings, somebody eventually asks you to take a leadership role,” he said.

In Dodd’s opinion, an apple grower’s real competitors aren’t other apples. They’re the bananas and oranges and other items in the produce section. Dodd wants the apple industry to get as big a chunk of that pie as possible. Working together is especially important for growers in Dodd’s home state, Ohio, which isn’t a major player in the apple industry, he said.

Several years ago, OFGMA took over management duties for OAMP, which handles promotion and research for Ohio apples. That’s when Dodd became OAMP’s program director. He runs both organizations from the same office.

OFGMA supports his involvement in other organizations. The skill of the association’s staff – Peg Caudill, Lorrie Jurin, Sara Shepherd – allows him to do the extra things he does, Dodd said.

Dodd will take the reins as head of Premier Apple Cooperative from George Lamont, who’s retiring. The cooperative was founded more than a decade ago by growers in New York state. Its job is to share information among members. They discuss any factor that might affect apple prices – supply and demand, market conditions, weather, etc. – usually in conference calls. There are about 100 members, all east of the Mississippi River. OFGMA is a member of the cooperative, which is how Dodd got involved, he said.

By Matt Milkovich, Managing Editor

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