Dec 10, 2020
Washington tree fruit industry recognizes several leaders

The Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) presented awards Nov. 9 during its virtual meeting.

WSTFA chair Sean Gilbert presented the Silver Apple, Silver Pear and Distinguished Service awards.

The Silver Apple Award was given to Rob Lynch of Yakima, recognizing his commitment to science-informed fruit growing, his advocacy for growers and his leadership with the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission, Washington Growers League and the Pom Club, Gilbert said.

Lynch died on Nov. 13. Mike Taylor of Wenatchee, accepted the award on his behalf.

“Growing fruit is part art and part science. You have to have the scientific approach, but you have to be creative. Rob embodied that,” Taylor said. Lynch was the first chair of the research commission’s technology committee and led the push for grower-friendly innovation for many years.

Taylor praised Lynch’s “active mind and enduring spirit,” as well as his willingness to show up for anyone in the industry who needed help.

“Rob strove to solve problems, not for himself, but for everybody,” Taylor said. “Rob, you will never be forgotten and you are dearly missed.”

A fifth-generation grower from Selah, Washington, Jason Matson, was given the Silver Pear Award. Matson started in the pear industry at field days when he was about 6 years old. Gilbert praised Matson’s leadership on the research commission’s committees for pears and technology, as well as involvement with the tree fruit endowment advisory committee.

“I’d like to thank the researchers for enduring my questioning and I’d like to thank my friends for always challenging me mentally with their tough questions,” Matson said.

He also saluted the people at his company, Matson Fruit, who pitch in to allow him to advocate for the industry, including field days and committee involvement.

Gilbert presented the Distinguished Service Award to Charlie de la Chapelle, a retired grower from Yakima who is a longtime industry supporter.  de la Chapelle has served several industry organizations, including the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, the Northwest Horticultural Council’s science advisory committee, the International Fruit Tree Association, the fruit commission’s technology roadmap, water issues and with the Yakima Pom Club.

“Change is something the industry is good at,” de la Chapelle said. “It doesn’t work without volunteers.”

He said his father, Charles de la Chapelle, and his uncle, Cragg Gilbert, instilled in him that in the tree fruit industry, “you have a responsibility to pull your weight.”

“I appreciate what the industry has done for me,” he said. “You have a great future ahead because you have some of the best people coming up.”

The Latino Leadership Award was presented to Pedro Serrano, who served for many years with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries and now runs his own consulting firm, Serrano Safety, which provides on-farm safety training and consultations in English and Spanish.

Serrano, who came to the U.S. as an immigrant farmworker, said he wanted to accept his award on behalf of the Latinos. “It’s a community that works hard on behalf of their families,” he said. “A community that takes the risks while many of us stay safe.”

Living in the U.S. without proper documentation is currently difficult, Serrano said, and he said immigrants who work hard for a better life should be proud, while advocating for themselves.

“To all the dreamers, for the young people, for all the immigrants, this award is for you,” he said. “We all want to be safe, we all want to be happy, and we all want to be welcome in our communities.”

Jason Matson, left, was presented the Silver Pear Award. He is shown with Rod and Jordan Matson, who are also shareholders in Matson Fruit. Photo: Stephen Kloosterman

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