Ed Wittenbach, Michigan Apples

Third-generation farmer Ed Wittenbach grows corn and beans like many of his Belding, Mich., neighbors, but he found his passion in apples.

“I love the way trees can produce fruit right after the snow; plus, they are so nutritious,” he says. “You can feel really good about giving an apple to a loved one or a child because it is so healthy.”

Now semi-retired – with the responsibilities of the 200-acre orchard transitioned to his son, Mike – Ed says he also has taken great pride in helping ensure the health of the apple industry. Embracing leadership, he chaired the U.S. Apple Association in the early 1990s, while his wife, Linda, volunteered with the Michigan Apple Committee.

“There’s more to it than just growing fruit,” Ed says. “It’s important to have a voice to keep our industry strong and viable; the U.S. Apple Association gives us that opportunity.” Recognizing his many contributions, the organization named him “Grower of the Year” and “Apple Person of the Year” in the ’90s.

Today, Ed takes time to pursue other interests. Soon, he’ll be traveling to Honduras to help establish a well in a town in desperate need of water, increasing the quality of life and health within the community.

Success would not come without passion, he says. “You’ve got to love what you do.”