James Michael, the Washington State Fruit Commission’s and Northwest Cherries’ new promotions director, is working outside of the wine grape industry for the first time in his professional career.
Michael joined the Yakima-based commissions July 1, succeeding Andrew Willis, who left to go back to school, Michael said. The two worked together in July, with Willis leaving the commission July 31.
“It was right in the midst of a very hectic time,” Michael said. “Washington State Fruit Commission and Northwest Cherries are so involved in so many aspects, and we had multiple harvests going on.”
Michael’s only other experience in the cherry industry was during college when he inspected cherries for a department of agriculture, he said. The rest of his career was spent in wine grapes in domestic and international sales.
Three years ago, Michael moved back to Washington, where he and his wife took jobs at Chinook Wines, Prosser, Wash. He worked in sales and marketing there for three years before leaving to take the position at the commissions.
The reason Michael sought a job with Washington State Fruit Commission and Northwest Cherries, he said, is to spread the word about the area’s growing regions and products. He represents the cherry industries from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Montana, as well as peaches, nectarines, apricots plums and prunes from Washington.
Michael is already taking on some new campaign ideas, including a health-focused message for cherries. His position deals with domestic marketing, while Keith Hu, who has been with commission five years, handles international marketing.
Michael is also still involved in his family’s vineyards, Three Wilsons Vineyards, Prosser, although he isn’t involved in day-to-day operations.
Willis was with the commission for three years, Michael said.