(Aug. 24) CHICAGO — Times of change provide an opportunity for the true character of individuals to shine.

For the apple industry, the near demise of the Washington Apple Commission in March 2003 was one such opportunity. Stepping up to the plate was Larry Olsen.

For that and for his other contributions to the industry, Olsen received the Apple Man of the Year award from The Packer and The Grower Aug. 19 during the U.S. Apple Outlook conference in Chicago.

The Packer and The Grower are owned by Vance Publishing Corp., Lincolnshire, Ill.

Olsen is president of Olsen Bros., Prosser, Wash., which grows 400 acres of apples. He has served three years on the board of U.S. Apple Association, Vienna, Va., and served as chairman the past year.

When U.S. Apple’s funding was imperiled in the wake of the federal court decision restricting the efforts of the Washington Apple Commission, Olsen stepped into the fray.

“His personal influence was extremely important in developing the compromise plan and legislation that guaranteed the survival of the (Washington Apple Commission) and U.S. Apple,” wrote John Rice, sales manager of Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., in a letter nominating Olsen for Apple Person of the Year.

Trips by Olsen to Washington, D.C., and meetings with members of Congress helped secure assistance for growers under the apple market loss assistance program. Olsen also helped form a political action committee to garner support for apple industry interests.

He also served on U.S. Apple’s board of trustees and was on the search committee that found Nancy Foster to take the helm of the organization after the departure of Kraig Naasz.

Olsen and his brother, Dick, got their start in the apple industry in 1971 when they bought a friend’s 80-acre orchard. Before that, the honoree had sold life insurance in an area near San Francisco, and his brother was a journalist in Seattle.

The brothers started out working the red delicious operation themselves. They eventually expanded their operation to grow galas and by 2000 had replaced all the red delicious with galas, fuji, braeburns, ginger golds and granny smiths.

They also have patented the Pacific Gala, a mutation of their gala trees that showed superior qualities.

Olsen honored for contributions to apple industry
Larry Olsen (right), president of Olsen Bros., Prosser, Wash., receives the Apple Person of the Year award from Tom Karst, national editor of The Packer, Aug. 19 during the U.S. Apple Outlook conference in Chicago.