Jan 14, 2009
There Must Be a Pony

I’ve always liked the story about the youngster who, told to clean the horse manure out of a long-neglected stable, zestfully begins pitching, looking for the pony that must be in there somewhere.

We hope that, with this new issue of Fruit Growers News, you’ll find it easy to find the pony. Not only do we have a new look, we’re trying to organize things better.

Like all branches of the media these days, we’re going to put more information on the Internet and into e-mail so you get news in a more timely way. But on the other hand, we take the editing function seriously. We think you want us to edit, to filter, to choose and throw away marginal stuff. You want to find the pony. In this age of blogging, where everybody not only has an opinion but gets to express it, you can’t read it all. And you probably want help cutting through the cacophony -– the noise caused by too many voices all speaking at once. There’s a lot of whitewash and greenwash out there.

Not everything is improved by distillation. I like plain old hard apple cider better than applejack. But a monthly magazine isn’t a newspaper. We’re planning to beef up the news function with an e-newsletter and postings on our Web page. You can find important news there and read a more analytical report in the magazine a little later. That’s the plan anyway.

Remembering an old friend

One of the more unusual happenings at the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market EXPO in Grand Rapids, Mich., last month was the reconstruction of the legacy of a person who died 38 years ago.

Arthur E. Mitchell was a Michigan State University horticulturist who played several key roles in the Michigan fruit industry in the 1950s and 1960s. He died quite suddenly on Dec. 11, 1970, after exploratory surgical investigation of spots on his lungs. He was only 61.

His wife, Hilda, lived 30 more years, and when she died in 2000 she left a gift to MSU to fund educational activities related to subjects that once interested her husband.

Thirty-eight years is a long time, but Mitchell’s legacy is now shining pretty brightly. The EXPO’s Arthur E. Mitchell Symposium was a day-long program on fruit thinning and return bloom – an area in which he made cutting-edge contributions decades ago.

Hilda Mitchell’s gift will finance symposia, seminars and educational programs on fruit research and pomology principles related to the role and use of plant growth regulators, chemicals and pest control techniques in fruit production, harvesting and marketing.

Mitchell was also “the spray man” who wrote the annual fruit spray manual, discovered the causes of apple russeting from chemicals, led the march from dilute to concentrate spraying and did early work with chemical apple thinners. He was the glue that held the Michigan State Horticultural Society together for many years.

Had he lived, Mitchell would have been 99 the week of the symposium. However, “younger men,” former colleagues and students, were there to recall his work, men like university horticulturists Paul Larsen, John Bukovac, Jerry Hull and Frank Dennis – themselves all industry academic giants, retired and near or beyond age 80. There also were growers like Merlin Kraft from Sparta and former students like Don Nugent, who owns Graceland Fruit and chairs the Michigan State University board of trustees.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.

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