The Dept. of Horticulture’s series on Life after Grad School continues with “Educational Program for the Washington State Tree Fruit Industry” on Thursday, October 12, 2:50pm, Johnson Hall 204.

Jacqui Gordon of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association is the speaker.

Abstract:

Washington State is a wonderful place to work; it has the perfect conditions to grow a variety of crops, and gives people the opportunity to work with very knowledgeable scientists from all over the world.

I studied Agro-industrial Engineering in Ecuador, which is equivalent to Food Science. As an Agro-industrial Engineer, I was taught to combine the diversity of animal and plant life in Ecuador with the industry. I was fortunate to work with rural Ecuadorian communities on a research project that sought to develop markets for farmers to commercialize high quality products and not only use them for their own consumption. For this project I developed protocols, fact sheets and other educational materials in Spanish and trained over 50 people on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

I was later selected to do an internship at the Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission (WTFRC) under the guidance of Dr. Ines Hanrahan. In that role I performed different tasks like data collection, fruit quality analysis and data summary in applied horticulture field trials. I was able to lead and assist projects, as well as interact with farmers, scientists and other agriculture professionals. While working for the WTFRC, I had the opportunity to work with professors from Washington State University, which helped me later to start with my Master’s program in Horticulture.

I worked for 2 years investigating the efficiency of mechanical pruning of apple and sweet cherry in planar systems and graduated in May 2016. My advisor and committee members helped me improve my research skills during my Master’s program, but I found out that my passion was public speaking and teaching people about my project.

Before I graduated, I got an offer from the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, to become their Director of Education, and I’ve been working in that position for 17 months. This job has given me the opportunity to provide effective employee training, which is one of the most difficult food safety challenges in our industry.

I have been working collaboratively with several organizations to directly train more than 1,000 members of our industry per year on food, tractor, worker and pesticide safety; and with agriculture magazines to publish articles with the key learnings from our workshops, short training videos with our food safety experts and occasional columns to answer the most frequently asked questions about food safety. Studying at WSU certainly prepared me to perform the tasks needed for this job, but being surrounded by great collaborators has also been a key component to the success of my program.