Known for its apples, pears, and sweet cherries, Washington is now one of the world’s most competitive deciduous tree fruit producers, providing more than half the nation’s supply. In the 1970s, the state’s apple growers produced about 40 million cartons. Now they can generate 140 million. But it has never been easy. The industry has suffered from a loss of collective marketing, can be plagued by oversupply, and is moving from local family ownership to one controlled by large outside corporations. In his unique new book filled with personal anecdotes as well as expert observation, investigation, and analysis, Tree Fruit Trade: An Agricultural Economist Reviews Fifty Years of Washington State’s Key Orchard Crops, Desmond O’Rourke covers internal and external challenges and opportunities—from the devastating winter 1969 freeze to the Covid-19 pandemic. He shares his perspective on controversial areas like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), “super foods,” and the “dirty dozen.”
Written as both a tribute to those who served the industry in the past and as a cautionary tale that combines industry, economic, and world-events history with his own personal story, O’Rourke’s accounts help explain Washington’s tremendous success and illuminate emerging threats. They discuss multiple factors—both domestic and worldwide—that disrupt a variety of agricultural commodities, and describe significant changes, players, organizations, and how the tree fruit industry responded. Covered topics include environmental issues, virus problems, China, food trends, the free trade movement, shifting views on pesticides, concerns about labor shortages, retailer growth and failure, technological innovations, and much more.
Desmond O’Rourke has studied and worked in the Washington State fruit industry for more than fifty years—thirty in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Washington State University, and since 2000, as a private consultant. For 24 years, his company, Belrose, has published the World Apple Report. O’Rourke has also published books, monographs, journal articles, and special publications on many aspects of the world fruit trade, and has served on numerous national, state, and university committees, including—at the invitation of five consecutive governors—the Washington State Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.
Tree Fruit Trade is paperback, 6” x 9”, 294 pages, and lists for $29.95. It is available through bookstores nationwide, direct from WSU Press at 800-354-7360, or online at wsupress.wsu.edu. A nonprofit academic publisher associated with Washington State University in Pullman, Washington, WSU Press concentrates on telling unique, focused stories of the Northwest.