Todd Fryhover has done it all.
He has watched his career progress in logical steps, with each stop another point of progress ultimately leading to his current position as president of the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission.
He grew up in central Washington, his first job with the fruit industry picking cherries as a young teen.
Later, after college, the journey continued.
“I’ve literally done every job in this industry,” Fryhover said.
“I started out stacking boxes in the cold room, but (then) went to quality control, overseeing shipping operations to domestic sales and international sales. I think that is one of the reasons why the board has confidence in me — I’ve done what they have done.”
Fryhover was named president of the Washington Apple Commission in December 2008.
Before coming to the commission, Fryhover owned his own apple export business for a decade and before that ran the export desk for Wenatchee-based Dovex Export Co.
Fryhover said he is humbled to represent the interest of apple growers in international export markets.
“I don’t want to use the word luck, but it sure seemed like a lot of it is luck. You wake up one day, and you look back and you say, ‘Wow, really?’”
Apart from going to college and playing football at the University of Idaho, Fryhover has spent his entire life in apple country.
“My entire life has been spent right here in this valley, and that doesn’t happen very often anymore."
Cass Gebbers, president and CEO of Gebbers Farms, Brewster, Wash., said he has known Fryhover since they played high school football together.
“He has been a competitor and a winner his whole life,” he said.
“Todd has a linebacker’s mentality and never quits; he is always there to make the final play.”
Gebbers said Fryhover has tremendous passion for the growers that he works with, no matter the size of the grower.
“He’s very fair with everybody and he has a passion for promoting our industry,” he said. Fryhover does a great job being the face of the industry, Gebbers said, whether that is in export markets or to policymakers in Washington, D.C.
Fryhover said he likes to lead by example for his commission staff.
“I try to let people do what they need to do and move in their own direction and provide a little bit of guidance,” he said.
With retaliatory tariffs against U.S. apples in several large export markets, it is not an easy time for expanding export sales.
Fryhover said the challenges the apple industry faces also can be viewed as opportunities.
The evolution of better horticultural practices has produced improved mainstream apple varieties, and growers are also adopting new varieties.
“It is really a unique time to be in the industry and watch this evolution happening,” he said.
When marketing to export markets, he said there is a fine line between encouraging export sales of newer varieties and continuing to promote mainstream varieties.
“The largest opportunity that exists (is) trying to find that balance between what the domestic consumer wants and then creating that opportunity for the international customer to try those new varieties,” he said.
“That’s probably the biggest challenge and opportunity that exists for us in this industry.”
For example, the up-and-coming Cosmic Crisp variety will be marketed domestically at first but rising volume may soon create the opportunity for export sales.
“We’re expecting some volume next year, and a big expectation, of course, is that it’s going to go into the domestic market,” he said.
Higher prices for newer varieties won’t necessarily lock out export sales, he said.
He said there is a certain set of consumers in any country — whether it’s Taiwan, or China, or Vietnam even Mexico and certainly Canada — that will buy some volume of the niche apple varieties.
“The key for us, of course, is to support that transition as they move into those markets. And try to expand that demand and expand that educational side of it, so that they know what they’re buying, and what they’re going to buy when they go back to the store the second time,” he said.Fryhover said he spends much time trying to understand the big picture and then learning from that big picture to understand how the commission can support increase exports.
“So it really is a challenge, because you don’t want to get too far in front, you don’t want to promote something that’s not in the marketplace. But at the same time, you have got to give enough support so that the consumer has enough education and enough information to come back and buy a second time.”