By STEVE BROWN
Lyle Rader, who built a small family farm into a major producer of raspberries and blueberries, died April 23. He was 72.
He was born and raised in the Fife Valley of Western Washington, graduated from Fife High School and at age 22 was voted Star Farmer of America, the highest honor the FFA can bestow on a member.
Lyle and his wife, Sue, created Rader Farms Inc., which grows and processes 800 acres of berries and employs more than 500 people. The farm's produce is distributed through partnerships with companies such as Costco, Safeway, Meijer, Jamba Juice and Western Family.
During his career in agriculture, Lyle was a leader and innovator for farmers across the country, developing and implementing practices at Rader Farms that have been replicated throughout the industry.
Marty Maberry, a friend and colleague, called Rader "an excellent farmer -- the best raspberry farmer I've run across."
Maberry, who operates Maberry Packing in Whatcom County, said Rader was the ultimate innovator: "He understood the raspberry plant, starting cultural practices now used across the industry.
"Lyle's fields were just better than anyone else's. He was very much a perfectionist, and wasn't afraid to take chances."
In addition to building Rader Farms, Lyle Rader served as president of the Washington Red Raspberry Commission, where he was involved in fair trade issues such as Chilean fruit dumping, a successful effort that required his testimony in front of the U.S. Trade Commission.
In 2007, Lyle and Sue sold Rader Farms, which continues to grow under the leadership of their son, Brad. Over the past few years, the couple lived on Camano Island.
Lyle was a devoted Rotarian and served on several community organizations.
He is survived by Sue, his wife of 44 years; daughter, Julie Newell, and her husband, Tom; his son, Brad, and his wife, Kari; grandchildren Arianna, Sofia and Brooke; sister, Doris Hall; and brother, Leon.
Private graveside services were held April 27 in Sumner.
Lyle's family welcomes donations to the Lynden or Fife High School FFA programs or to the Mount Baker Rotary's Annual Polio campaign.