(Aug. 21, 7:53 p.m.) George Lamont, a New York grower and industry advocate credited with helping to raise the price of fresh apples in the eastern U.S. by as much as three dollars a box, is The Packer’s 2008 Apple Man of the Year.

Tom Karst, the newspaper’s national editor, presented Lamont the award Aug. 21 at the U.S. Apple Outlook & Marketing Conference in Chicago.

In honoring Lamont, a principal of Lamont Fruit Farm Inc., Albion, N.Y., Karst highlighted not only his decades as a pioneering grower – Lamont helped lead a trend toward planting dwarf trees, widely believed to produce superior apples – but his extensive volunteer work on behalf of the eastern apple industry.

Lamont was a driving force behind the formation, in 2001, of the Premier Apple Cooperative, a group that brings together eastern apple marketers to legally discuss pricing strategies and market opportunities. Many growers and officials credit the organization with significantly raising the price of eastern apples in recent years.

“The Premier Apple Co-op has revolutionized apple marketing in the Northeast, and George is the glue that holds it together,” said Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association.

Lamont also served a term as chairman of the Vienna, Va.-based U.S. Apple Association, and was active in the Western New York Apple Growers Association, the New York State Horticultural Society and other industry organizations.

Lamont was a member of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton’s Agricultural Advisory Group, and in 2006, he was given a distinguished alumni award from Cornell University.

A tireless advocate for apple growers on Capitol Hill, Lamont is famous for having visited what is believed to be the most Congressional offices by an apple advocate in a single day – 22.

John Rice, president of Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., said Lamont’s work, all done on a volunteer basis, has translated into millions of extra dollars in the pockets of U.S, apple growers.

“I can’t think of another person in our industry who has done more to promote the economic success of apple growers in this half of the country than George,” Rice said.

Lamont said he was humbled to receive the award, and that he looked forward to building on what the industry, working together, had already accomplished.

“I know there are many people in this industry who would be very worthy recipients, and I am honored, and my knees are shaking, that you selected me,” he said. “It’s been a great run so far, but we’ve got a long ways to go. I accept this on behalf of everyone in this room who is trying to improve the apple industry.”

Lamont named Apple Man of the Year
Tom Karst (left), national editor for The Packer, presents the 2008 Apple Man of the Year award to George Lamont, a principal of Lamont Fruit Farm Inc., Albion, N.Y.