Mar 3, 2014
IFTA hands out awards at annual conference

British Columbia orchardist David Geen was named Outstanding Grower of the Year by the International Fruit Tree Association at its annual conference Feb. 24 in Kelowna, British Columbia.

Geen owns Coral Beach Farms, near Kelowna, B.C., where he has 400 acres of cherries, the largest cherry operation in Canada.

IFTA board member Sam DiMaria presented the award. He noted Geen began with a small pear orchard at Carr’s Landing and replanted it with new cherry varieties from the cherry breeding program in Summerland, B.C. He took Sweetheart cherries to Vancouver to sell when no one had heard of the variety. DiMaria said Geen has been instrumental in pursuing leading edge horticulture and management techniques.

DiMaria, who grows apples, table grapes, and pears in Kelowna, also received an Outstanding Grower of the Year Award. DiMaria and his family emigrated to Canada from Europe in 1959 and he grew up in his parents orchard and vineyard. He has been politically active in the British Columbia tree fruit Industry, was a founding board member of the Okanagan Plant Improvement Co., and has been on the IFTA board for nine years. He and his wife Patti have 44 acres of tree fruits and grapes.

Plant pathologist and consultant Bill McPhee received the Outstanding Extension Award for his work in assisting the B.C. tree fruit industry in managing fruit diseases.

McPhee earned a doctorate from the University of Alberta and in 1978 and was appointed postharvest pathologist with Agriculture Canada at Summerland. After six years, he left to do extension work with the Okanagan-Similkameen Cooperative. In 1996, he went to work for Pace International based in Seattle, Wash., and in 2004 joined the Okanogan Tree Fruits Cooperative’s extension service.

McPhee now has a consulting business called Canadian Agricultural Service and in recent years has worked mainly on management of apple replant disease and soil-related problems.

Gerry and Denise Neilsen, soil scientists with Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada, received the Outstanding Researcher Award. They have worked at the Summerland research station since 1978, focusing on precision management of water and nutrients for perennial crops.

Gie and Carla Perleberg and Dena Ybarra, who run the Columbia Basin Nursery in Quincy, Wash., received the association’s Industry Service Award for giving back to the industry.

The nursery was founded by Gie and her late husband Carl.

Gary Pullano





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