Washington apple industry accepts no self-limitations - The Packer

Washington apple industry accepts no self-limitations

07/22/2014 09:37:00 AM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstYou haven’t heard of Bill Snyder’s 16 goals? You haven’t heard of Bill Snyder, in fact?

Let’s dispatch with that shortcoming in your education. Bill Snyder is the long-time football coach of Kansas State University, a grandfather figure who has taken Wildcat football to the heights of two Big 12 championships and to the brink of the national championship game in 1998. He is still coaching at K-State and the football stadium is already named after him.

He is old and he is old school. The wisdom he instills to the “youngsters” on his football squad is distilled in 16 goals, which can be found on the Kstatesports.com website.

Many of Snyder’s goals for his football team (unity, improve, enthusiasm) also can be found in successful produce companies today, whether they know it or not.

Believe it or not, I thought of Snyder’s 16 goals when I was visiting with a few apple industry leaders today about the growth in the Washington apple industry.

You see, one of Snyder’s goals for his football team is “no self-limitations.” And I think that the Washington apple industry has lived out that precept in the past few decades.

Years ago, some growers fretted how marketers would move a fresh crop of more than 50 million cartons. Later, then goal moved up to 60 million cartons, then 70 million cartons, then 80 million cartons, then 100 million cartons.

Doubters, through the years, said the industry couldn’t move more than x million cartons profitably. Marketers rejected that script.

The record fresh pack out for the Washington apple crop, set a couple of years ago was 130 million cartons. And soon that record packout could be smashed by fresh market capacity that is approaching 140 million cartons or more, industry leaders.

While fresh volume may not reach that plateau in 2014, it just might.

Washington growers have not accepted self-limitations. Can-do marketers and growers have found ways, so far, to pick, pack and sell the crop. They have sought out more desirable apple varieties that kindle consumer enthusiasm and receive strong returns. They have found new export markets that love Washington apples.

But high density plantings could challenge other limitations of apple industry infrastructure, whether labor, harvest bins or storage facilities. That barrier could be seen at 140 million cartons, one shipper I talked with said.

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