CHICAGO — Apple grower, packer, marketer. Maker of award-winning wine. Pilot.

Mike Wade, general manager of Columbia Fruit Packers and co-owner of Columbia Fruit International, can add another title to his resume: The Packer’s 2016 Apple Man of the year.

Wade, outgoing chairman of the U.S. Apple Association, accepted the award Aug. 25, the first day of the association’s two-day annual Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference.

Tom Karst, national editor of The Packer, said those who nominated Wade for the award described his integrity and honesty, which garners loyalty and dedication from Columbia Fruit Packers employees, from harvesters to those in the company’s Wenatchee, Wash., offices.

“The challenges of today’s apple industry call for forward-thinking individuals, both growers and marketers, willing to invest in trends that will play out in five to ten years, not tomorrow,” Karst said before announcing the award’s recipient. “The individual we honor tonight was praised for an ability to embrace innovation, whether that means new varieties, cultivating organic apples or any number of different things.”

Wade has been involved in numerous industry associations besides his tenure at the national apple association, Karst said, including serving as chairman of the Northwest Horticultural Council, a board member of the Washington State Fruit Commission and board member of the Northwest Fruit Exporters.

More impressive, Karst said, is Wade’s record of advancing the fruit industry by innovative growing methods and willingness to embrace new planting methods, new apple varieties and ways of marketing apples.

In receiving the award, Wade said he was stunned, and very appreciative.

“We have plenty of challenges, but I think some wonderful opportunities,” Wade said about the future of the apple industry.

“We have one of the healthiest products out there and we have a growing millennial group that’s interested in health and eating healthy, and new varieties,” he said. “A lot of consumers are looking for something different I think we’re poised to have many more years of a great run.”

Within a few years, according to a Northwest grower who nominated Wade and has worked with him, Columbia Fruit Packers will have half of its acreage devoted to new varieties, including Kanzi and Kikus, as well as organic apples.

His hobbies include flying — the U.S. Apple Association gave him aeronautical navigating equipment as a parting gift for his chairmanship — and wine making. His Fielding Hills Winery has been recognized for producing the top cabernet in the state of Washington.

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