Tree Fruit Association gathering online for 116th annual meeting

For the Basin Business Journal | November 25, 2020 1:00 AM

YAKIMA — The 116th annual NW Horticultural Expo and Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) Annual Meeting is joining the long list of conferences and trade shows that have moved online this year.

According to Tim Kovis, director of communications for the Washington Tree Fruit Association, the association has been working with the Yakima Pom Club and the North Central Washington Fieldman’s Association in Wenatchee — which are organizing the expo’s trade show — to secure a common online platform for both the online trade show as well as the meeting.

The three-day event runs Dec. 7-9, and will feature speakers and presenters from across the industry.

While it means that the association and its partners can still hold a trade show, Kovis said they understand a lot is missing when everything goes online, especially the ability to meet old friends or make new contacts.

“The one thing that we identified early on is our attendees are primarily growers and fieldmen, and a lot of those individuals really value that interaction,” Kovis said. “Sometimes they only get to meet those people once a year.”

“Most of exhibitors feel a level of frustration, but to do nothing is not an option,” said Dawne Milne of the NCW Fieldman’s Association. “We’re always in front of our customers. This is not the best, but this is also not a do-nothing industry.”

However, Kovis said there are some advantages to an online conference. First, all of this year’s presentations and panel discussions are consecutive, meaning no one has to choose between competing presentations.

“So people don’t have to pick and choose what content they want to view,” he said.

Second, Kovis said the focus this year is on panel talks, rather than long presentations, in order to keep conference “attendees” engaged.

“The focus is on panel discussions and Q&A, so it’s more interactive than simply watching a 45-minute presentation,” Kovis said.

In addition, the sessions will be recorded and kept for 30 days on the association’s web site, and will likely be archived permanently, Kovis said, for anyone who wants to review the presentations later.

The first session will begin on Monday, Dec. 7, with a welcome to participants and updates from the WSTFA, the U.S. Apple Association, and Washington State University, with supermarket guru Phil Lempert delivering the keynote address.

Monday afternoon will feature the WSTFA leadership luncheon, as well as the presentation of awards including Good Fruit Grower magazine’s Grower of the Year award. That will then be followed by sessions on effective crisis communication and an update on tree fruit research.

Tuesday, Dec. 8, follows with morning sessions on dealing with invasive tests and emerging diseases, the conference’s Spanish-language session, discussions on worker safety, and the use of technology to boost production.

On the final day of the conference on Wednesday, Dec. 9, sessions will include more discussions of worker safety and a series of talks on pesticide use and safety by Washington State University.

Kovis said the association will provide pesticide credits in both its English and Spanish-language sessions.

To register for the conference, got the WSTFA’s website at Kovis said this year, the association has only one level of participation, so anyone who registers can view all three days of sessions.

Kovis also said the association hopes it can hold next year’s annual meeting and expo in the conference center live and in person.

“We hope and pray that next year, in 2021, we can have our meeting at the convention center in Yakima,” he said. “It’s our intention to go back to an in-person event.”

“This has been a crazy year,” Milne added, “but agriculture is essential.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at