Tom Karst, The Packer’s national editor, presented the award to Stokes Aug. 22 at the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association’s Annual Crop Outlook & Marketing Conference.
In honoring Stokes, a 38-year industry veteran, Karst mentioned his work on a committee created to restore stability to the concentrate juice market, which had been upended by huge volumes from China.
In that role, Stokes helped to secure years of favorable rulings from the International Trade Conference.
In addition, Stokes played central roles in directing both industry and association funds for nutrition research, Karst said.
Under his watch, U.S. Apple funded the first antioxidant studies with Cornell University for apples and apple products.
Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association, worked closely with Stokes on nutrition-related issues when Stokes chaired U.S. Apple’s Research and Education Council Steering Committee.
In that role, Stokes looked out for everyone, not just his own corner of the industry, Allen said.
“Tom always approached research projects based on what the greater benefits would be to the entire apple industry, regardless if it was for juice, sauce or fresh apples,” Allen said. “Tom has always looked at the big picture.”
In addition to his industry leadership, as president of Tree Top, Stokes has found imaginative ways to increase value and boost returns to his growers, including being an early advocate of sliced apples, said John Rice, vice president of Gardners, Pa.-based Rice Fruit Co.
“For many years Tom has been one of the outstanding leaders of our industry, bringing an unusually broad perspective to many industry issues,” Rice said. “In an industry that tends to be rather conservative and set in its ways, he has looked for new products and new challenges.”