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Jim Allen receives New York Society Foundation Distinguished Service Award

In mid-January, the New York Society Foundation bestowed Jim Allen, a long-time New York apple professional, with the 2019 Distinguished Service Award.

Those who are familiar with Allen’s background would agree that the award is duly appropriate given his unabashed enthusiasm throughout his decades of service and leadership to the New York — and beyond — apple industry.alJim Allen, center, received the 2019 Distinguished Service Award from the New York Agricultural Society Foundation in mid-January. Allen is flanked by Dave Fisher, president of New York State Farm Bureau; Commissioner Richard Ball of the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets; Beth Claypool, president of the New York Agricultural Society Foundation; and Richard Church, chairman of the New York Agricultural Society award committee.

The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

“I grew up on a small produce and fruit farm in Oneida County in New York,” said Allen. “My father believed that strength was in numbers, and he was responsible for forming agriculture cooperatives in the 1950s and 1960s.

“My mother, an English teacher, taught me the value of writing and communications,” he continued. “Together, my parents instilled in me the importance of respecting others and of living a lifestyle that is in keeping with the wholesomeness of growing up on a farm in a small town. My success began with them.”

Allen graduated from SUNY Morrisville in 1972 with a degree in food science and marketing. He worked as a buyer for Comstock Foods in western New York during the 1970s. From 1980 to 1993 he worked for Keystone Fruit Marketing.

“The three top Keystone principals were my mentors and the greatest people in the world,” noted Allen. “They taught me about marketing and serving customers.”

From 1993 to 1996 he worked with Sun Orchards Fruit Co., where he was involved in export and procurement.

Allen joined the New York Apple Association in 1996. His job was to promote New York apples. From then until his retirement 20 years later, an extensive list of experiences, accomplishments, promotions and accolades accompanied him.

Memorable moments in his years with the NYAA include its first year of involvement with the New York City Marathon in 1998. He recalls that the association initially headed into the project promoting Apple Country apples from New York state.

“No one knew what Apple Country or New York apples were,” pointed out Allen. “The following year I told my press agent that the only way I would agree to participate again was if we promoted a true New York apple variety. Every year since, NYAA has promoted McIntosh apples at the event. Every person who crosses that finish line gets a prized New York state McIntosh apple.”

Allen became president of NYAA in 2000 and continued to work tirelessly and enthusiastically for not only New York apples but for the entire domestic industry.

He also enjoys writing, and one story he is particularly proud of was published in 2008 in the now defunct New York Sun.

“It was about immigration and playing ball and apple picking and why groups like the Boston Red Sox have famous players from the Dominican Republic on its team, but we can’t get Dominicans into the U.S. who would welcome the opportunity to pick apples,” said Allen.

He won the “Cap” Creal Journalism Award three times for his writing.

When Allen started with the NYAA, the industry was somewhat fragmented. Today, the entire U.S. apple industry remembers him for helping to unite all the apple-producing states. He has worked hard to pull groups and growers together.

He was active as the New York Farm Bureau and the New York Horticulture Society worked together on the marketing order to put new facts on the state’s industry to step up consumer and trade advertising.

Allen chaired the U.S. Apple Export Council three times.

“Exports are important to New York, but if Washington state is successful at exporting apples, the result will benefit New York and other apple-producing states,” said Allen. “In January 2016, a successful agreement was signed allowing U.S. apples into China. Washington is now approaching one million cartons going into China, which strengthens the domestic apple market.”

Allen’s many accolades over the years includes being named Apple Person of the Year in 2002.

After 17 years as president and chief executive officer of NYAA, Allen retired. But, attesting to the mantra that you can’t keep a good man down, his retirement was short lived.

In March 2017 he joined New York Apple Sales as vice president of marketing. Kaari Stannard, president and owner, said, “Jim Allen’s extensive experience in all aspects of the produce industry will be a great plus for us. Along with his tenure at the apple association, he was in produce sales for 16 years, so he knows this business inside and out.”