Celebrating the life and legacy of Tom Peerbolt.
It is with deep sadness that we announce Tom Peerbolt’s passing on Friday, November 18th at the age of 71. A Holland, Michigan native, Tom often spoke of Japanese Beetle picking in the MI berry fields growing up and loved to visit Lynden, Washington which reminded him so much of his Dutch heritage. After receiving a horticulture degree at UC Davis he opened a small tree and shrub nursery in Winters, CA which he ran for several years before moving to Oregon in 1990.
His connection to the NW Berry industry was born when the late Jerry Dobbins pulled him under his wing, introducing him to the SW Washington berry community in 1990. With the help of his wife, Anna, he ran a successful berry crop consulting business, Peerbolt Crop Management (PCM), for 30 years. After a few years working with growers, he realized the importance of a strong berry community in the Pacific Northwest, and so his vision of connecting the berry industry began. In 2000, he created the Small Fruit Update which he faxed out to his regional network of growers. Little did he know that it would reach nearly 1,500 people industry wide like it does today!
He was a firm believer in communication, technology, and on-farm research. He developed AgReports software to ease the flow of information to his PCM grower group. He also collaborated on countless research projects across the Pacific Northwest to ensure applied results and farm connection were prioritized. In 2014, he realized that his broader regional efforts needed their own space so, with the help of his wife, established the Northwest Berry Foundation.
He would never admit he was instrumental in shaping the PNW berry community, but he most definitely was. Multiple people have told me that his introduction and community building helped nurture budding careers and a sense of belonging in the Pacific Northwest. He jumped at any opportunity to show a new industry member around the fields ensuring they understood the end goal: successful PNW berry production and grower support.
There were several things Tom stood for above money, mainly creating a collective voice for growers and a strong PNW community. That there was a shared responsibility to farming, researching and market success if we work together to solve problems and share insight/efforts instead of working in a tunnel.
Outside of work, Tom loved his late wife of 40 years and his Clumber Spaniels who you’d see joining him on field visits prior to food safety regulations. His yard was a magical landscape that would make any horticulturist jealous and board games and puzzles brought him hours of joy.
It was the people and the simple pleasure of walking berry fields he missed the most after he was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and retired in late 2021. Over the last year he soaked up personal industry updates from anyone that would speak on the topic. Just in the week prior to his passing many people unknowingly reached out for updates on Tom and sent him well wishes, unbeknownst to us all that those wishes gave Tom peace to cross over on Nov. 18. His two step daughters and office staff cannot thank you all enough for the words of support over the last year.
Tom didn’t want a celebration of life. I'm sure he would be ok with using the channels he created to commemorate a life well lived. Please make time to connect with growers and walk some fields on his behalf.
"I’ve got a note on my computer with seven ‘life guidelines’. A couple of those that have been particularly useful in 2020: 1) Be grateful to everyone; and 2) Don’t brood over the faults of others. If this past year has helped me to be a little more grateful for simpler things once taken for granted and a little less brooding about those with whom I disagree, I’ll take that as an upside." ~ Tom Peerbolt, 12/18/20
"Best of times/worst of times. There’s a lot of satisfaction associated with past work and the incredibly competent team now in place. There’s also always that resistance to change. And that’s just the way it is. Thanks to all of you who have supported our work in the past. Please continue to do so! With much appreciation." ~ Tom Peerbolt, 7/7/21
More of Tom's words from 2020 and 2021 commentaries:
Tom's commentaries about insect and disease
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