Students Attend WSTFA Annual Meeting

Students Experienced the Tree Fruit Industry's Annual Gathering Last Week in Yakima 

 Last week four current WAEF scholarship recipients attended the Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) Annual Meeting in Yakima with all expenses paid through the WAEF/Carl Perleberg Memorial Travel Fund. Students applied for the opportunity by submitting an essay about how the conference would benefit their long-term career plans.

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Alejandro Ramos, Carolina Escobeda, Cesar Cuevas and Dianna Sanchez were the four students selected.

The students' experience began at 6:45am Monday morning with a breakfast when expectations were discussed, schedules reviewed and backgrounds on each of the mentors working with students was shared. A major component of the student experience is the time they spend with mentors, current industry professionals donating their time to work with students during the conference.  Following breakfast, students met up with their morning mentors to take in the meetings, visit the trade show and network with new contacts. At 12n, students attended the Leadership Luncheon featuring speaker Washington State Senator Curtis King then met up with a fresh set of mentors to gain new perspectives while taking in afternoon sessions.

 It was a little bit later start Tuesday morning with a 7am breakfast with WAEF alumni. Over 20 were present for the networking breakfast. WAEF alumni shared about their own career paths in the industry along with tips and advice for students.  

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 Morning mentors were met at 8am for day two of the conference, a short lunch break then connections made with a new slate of mentors for the afternoon. Students had an hour to prepare for the banquet and then meet up with WAEF directors and staff to participate in the Industry Awards Banquet. It was a full day for students that wrapped up about 9pm.

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Wednesday morning's breakfast provided an opportunity to recap and make plans to make the most of the experience. For this, students identified their "aha" moments, individuals to connect with later, lessons learned and committed to a personal follow-up list to accomplish by the end of 2018. They spent the morning on their own at the convention and trade show then participated in the FFA Leadership Luncheon following the State Apple Judging competition.

 General observations shared by students during the recap:

  • Recognition of the willingness of industry professionals to ask questions of others and the helpful answers provided in return.

  • The benefit of getting to know seasoned industry professionals and getting to meet newer members of the industry and learning how they launched their careers.

  • Appreciation that some of their mentors knew some of their family members employed in the industry.

  • Sessions that featured panels consisting of current industry members sharing about issues and remedies were of greatest interest.

Below are some excerpts from the thank you letters students addressed to the Perleberg family:

 Alejandro Ramos - "Attending this event allowed me to see sides of the tree fruit industry that I never knew existed. I was able to sit through the sessions that were being held and got to listen in to what leaders in the industry are saying about problems that they are facing and how they plan to solve them. It was fascinating going to the trade show and seeing just how far the industry has come with just a wide variety of new technology and products now available. Even though seeing a bunch of new automated technology was cool and all but the best part for me was being able to meet people. My mentors introduced me to industry leaders and people who are in the career that I plan to pursue and being able to talk to them was well worth my time."

 Carolina Escobeda - "Thank you for this opportunity.  I got to know more about how the tree fruit industry works and also got to meet some really interesting people.  Attending this event reassured me that I chose the right path. There were a lot of booths with helpful information."

 Cesar Cuevas - "I really enjoyed this experience and I will make sure to apply next year again so that I can further expand my knowledge of the industry. This opportunity has led to an internship over the summer because employers are seeing that I am very interested in the tree fruit industry and that I am involved."

Dianna Sanchez - "Attending the Washington State Tree Fruit Association annual meeting allowed me to meet and connect with incredible industry members who answered my questions, introduced me to others and shared with me how their journey led them to the tree fruit industry in Washington. The connections I made were truly invaluable and I will continue to remain in contact with these important industry members. It validated for me how much I know that I'm making the right choice in becoming a part of this wonderful industry. Not only do I love learning about tree fruit but the people in our industry are so kind and welcoming to young people."

 Our very special thanks to the mentors who took time during the annual meeting to share the trade show and conference with Alejandro, Carolina, Cesar and Dianna:

Chase Edwards - Wilbur Ellis Company

Erik Zavala* - Stemilt

Flor Maldonado* - Kershaw Fruit

Frank Davis - Washington Fruit & Produce

Garrett Bishop - G.S. Long

James Foreman - Foreman Fruit

Kyle Womach - Sage Fruit

Lindsey Morrison - Stemilt

Miles Kohl - Allan Brothers

Nate Rubio* - Washington Fruit & Produce

Rolando Martin - Washington Fruit & Produce

Suzanne Niemann - Allan Brothers

Teah Smith - Zirkle Fruit

Todd Fryhover - Washington Apple Commission

Tyler Price - Price Cold Storage

 * identifies WAEF alumni 

 And many, many thanks to the Perleberg family for creating this opportunity for future industry members!

 Next week some of these same students and many others will be tour facilities in Wenatchee and Yakima to learn more about the diversity of opportunities in the tree fruit industry from accounting to technical services. We will visit with industry representatives working in sales, marketing, IT, logistics, HR, research, horticulture and many others involved in multiple facets of the industry.