By DAN WHEAT
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Succession planning in large and small family-owned tree fruit companies is the focus of the Washington State Horticultural Association's 108th Annual Meeting, Postharvest Conference and Northwest Hort Exposition Dec. 3-5 at the Yakima Convention Center.
"Stop Fighting on the Way to the Funeral Home," is the title of the keynote address by Jolene Brown, a professional speaker, author and corn and soybean farmer from West Branch, Iowa. She says good succession planning prevents family fights.
West Mathison, president of Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, and Robert Kershaw, president of Domex Superfresh Growers, Yakima, will address succession planning within their large, vertically integrated companies.
Three father-son teams will discuss succession planning in medium to smaller operations. Keith and Mark Stennes own Stennes Orchard Inc., Pateros. Richard and Alex Thomason have an orchard in Brewster, and Alex, the son, is a Seattle attorney. Maurice and Andre Tougas grow apples at Tougas Family Farms in North Borough, Mass.
The Tougases were chosen for their success and to lend an East Coast perspective to the discussion, said Stephanie Chance, association communications director.
David Douglas, association president and head of Douglas Fruit Co., Pasco, and owners of other large tree fruit companies view succession planning as vital, Chance said.
Multigenerational family ownership of major growing, packing and sales companies is a striking characteristic of the Washington tree fruit industry, according to a recent study of its impact on the state economy.
The authors of that study, economists Desmond O'Rourke and Bruce Prenguber, will talk about their work for the Washington Apple Commission that concluded the industry generated $7 billion in total economic output in the 2010-2011 sale season.
Patrick Jones, an Eastern Washington University professor, also will speak on the industry's economic impact.
Other conference topics include how Obamacare affects tree fruit growers and shippers, a variety of horticultural issues and upcoming state and federal legislative sessions.
Most convention sessions will be at the Yakima Convention Center but some will be at the SunDome where more than 200 vendors will have booths in the Northwest Hort Exposition.