2016 Distinguished Service Awards

Dave Trinka

Dave grew up on the family farm in southeastern North Dakota where they raised hogs, dairy and beef cattle, and grew wheat, corn, oats, barley, dry beans, soybeans, flax, millet, sunflowers, and alfalfa.  Cooperatives were an important part of his farm family life.  Electricity, fuel, grain marketing, milk marketing, and even telephone service were provided by local cooperatives.

Dave obtained a B.S. in horticulture from North Dakota State University and was then employed by the University of Minnesota as an extension blueberry specialist.  It was during his time in Minnesota that he attended his first International Vaccinium Symposium.  In July 1988, while on a pre-conference tour of blueberry production in SW MI, the bus made a lunch stop in South Haven.  That was the day he decided his short-term plans included blueberries and South Haven.  Dave became the horticulturist for Michigan Blueberry Growers Association in July 1991 after completing a M.S. at Cornell University.  He also played a dual role as the co-op’s member relations manager for several years.

Dave is currently the VP of Agri-Research and Horticultural Services for MBG Marketing.  He oversees all horticulture and research initiatives and works with the cooperative’s blueberry producers in FL, GA, NC, NJ, IN, MI, OR, WA, and British Columbia to help solve their production and pest management challenges.  He is also Chair of Berry Blue LLC, MBG’s blueberry breeding company. 

Dave maintains an active role with the USDA IR-4 Project as a member of the commodity liaison committee, representing blueberry pest control needs.  He serves on the United States Highbush Blueberry Council Health Research Committee.  Dave is also on several Specialty Crop Research Initiative  advisory panels and serves on the MSU Trevor Nichols Research Center advisory board.

Dave is married to his wife Davie (they met at the National Blueberry Festival).  They have two daughters, Chloe and Dakota, and reside near South Haven.  Dave is also an avid fisherman during his two days off per year.

Gene and Dean Veliquette

Dean R. Veliquette was born a twin 25 minutes after brother Gene on August 19, 1947.  Dean is the father to three sons, Nels, Christopher, and Bruce.  He and his wife Sharon were married on May 21, 1987. Gene Veliquette was married to Linda on November 25, 1977.  They have three children, Rachel, Charlotte and Tyler.  Gene passed away unexpectedly in 2015, leaving a hole in the family and organization he helped found and manage.

Dean is currently the President of Cherries R Us Inc., an agricultural based business established in 1993 specializing in the growing and harvesting of sweet and tart cherries with several wholly owned businesses and ownership interests in the processing and manufacturing value chain associated with our fruit production. Cherries R Us owns and operates, through its various companies, over 2800 acres of land producing up to 20 million pounds of cherries annually. Their apiary business, Cherry Bee Inc., manages 3000 hives of bees. The farm management and operating company named Cherry Ke Inc. provides work for 25 year round employees and 75 additional seasonal employees. In addition to these activities, Cherries R Us throughout the years have also had and continue to have ownership interests in residential and commercial property.

Cherries R Us, Inc., Cherry Ke, Inc., and Cherry Bee, Inc. are known for combining environmentally sound growing practices with innovative equipment designs and adaptations, resulting in beautiful, extraordinarily delicious fruit.  By meticulously managing the balance between the need for optimum productivity and the necessity of safeguarding our environment, the abundance of these orchards is sustained. Labor saving hedgers and forklifts created from old pickup trucks are among many inventive ideas taken from basic sketches to successful implementation in the orchards. The Veliquette’s businesses are also recognized for the great care and respect with which they treat employees and vendors from our community.

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7087 East Napier Ave.
Benton Harbor, Michigan 49022

Phone (269) 252-5461