Research center director moves from Puyallup to Wenatchee

Managing center’s orchards requires knowledge of irrigation systems, infrastructure support



The arid environment of the Cascades allows for large pear, apple and cherry orchards to bloom best in the Wenatchee area, says incoming director of WSU’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

The director of the Mt. Vernon and Puyallup WSU research centers will take a permanent position at the WSU Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center based out of Wenatchee, Washington. 

Chad Kruger spent much of his career at WSU; he grew up in eastern Washington and started working for the university in 2004. Even when he was in Mt. Vernon, Kruger said he planned on one day returning to the more “desert” side of the state.  

He will relinquish his role at the Puyallup and Mt. Vernon centers June 30 and will take over the tree fruit center July 1. 

Kate Evans, interim director of the Wenatchee extension, said she believes Kruger’s knowledge of WSU’s research centers will make him successful at the tree fruit center. 

“The thing that [Kruger] will bring to the R&E is that he knows WSU systems extremely well,” Evans said. “He knows the challenges of running a R&E center.”

Although he’s no stranger to directing WSU research centers, Kruger said each center follows a unique regional focus. The snow-pack from the Cascades and the arid environment allows for large pear, apple and cherry orchards to bloom best in the Wenatchee area, he said. 

“The Wenatchee Valley has been historically all about tree fruit,” Kruger said. 

The centers network with each other to learn more about the maintenance of these facilities. However, managing these orchards will require more knowledge of irrigation systems and infrastructure support for a growing faculty, Evans said.

“Anyone in these positions wants to be able to see the faculty they’re supporting be able to succeed,” Evans said. “It’s seriously a case of, ‘I need to hire someone for this project, I’ve got the funding, but where will I put them?’” 

Kruger said he hopes to plan more fundraising efforts for the tree fruit research facility so the center can continue to work with the community.

Evans, whose department headed the Cosmic Crisp apple campaign, moved from England and began working at WSU in 2008. In that time, she said Wenatchee and the orchards were some of her favorite places to work. 

As she has spent nearly her entire career in the U.S., Evans said she enjoyed seeing the impact of the WSU tree fruit research in Wenatchee on the Washington tree fruit industry. 

The support of the community is essential to the success of these centers, Kruger said.

“Having these facilities, which are really campuses embedded in the local communities where there’s a partnership and that you serve, is really kind of special,” Kruger said.