July 29, 2013
Here in the apple capital, our namesake crop will soon be underway. Apple tree harvesting should begin within the next couple weeks and run through early November. The season is shaping up to a be a strong one, said Tim Smith, the tree fruit specialist and educator for Chelan-Douglas County extension of Washington State University.
Last year the area had a record-setting crop of 130 million boxes of apples. Smith said the number of boxes this year will probably be 10 to 20 million less than last year and there’s a simple reason for that - apple trees have a hard time producing as many buds the the year following such a heavy crop. Smith said although it’s difficult to say at this point, a safe projection would be well over 100 million boxes this year.
The apples are developing well, he said, and should be of high quality come harvest time. Galas will be the first apples harvested, with the process beginning about ten days earlier in the Tri-Cities than in Chelan and Douglas Counties. Smith said Galas are becoming a very important part of Washington’s apple production. The variety Pink Lady will be the last picked, with harvest running as late as possible before the apples freeze on the trees.
Smith said he doesn’t see any setbacks this season or problems filling the market with quality apples. The main concern, he said, is having enough employees to harvest the crop. The reason for that, Smith said, is simple economics. There’s a limited number of people willing and able to do physical labor. The fruit picking industry has to compete with other physical labor businesses, Smith said, and sometimes they lose. The jobs are there, just not always the labor.
We will keep you updated as the apple harvest gets underway in the next couple of weeks.