Apple harvest finishing up this week

NORTH COUNTY – Apple pickers should have the last of this year’s apple crop off the trees by the end of this week.

We are still going… probably through Saturday to finish up the later varieties like Fujis,” said Greg Moser, general manager of Gold Digger Apples in Oroville.

Moser said the cold weather has led to later starts in the mornings, but by the afternoon things have been warm for those picking the crop, with some daytime temperatures reaching into the fifties and sixties.

“It’s not that the harvest is taking longer, we just started about 10 days later this year,” added Moser, who said that volumes are up about 30 percent over last year at the grower’s cooperative.

Moser said new growers joining Gold Digger and some of the younger orchards coming into production have combined to push the volume numbers up. He also said fruit size is bigger than last year.

“Overall we have some good quality fruit, but it is hard to compare to last year when the fruit was near perfect,” Moser said. “This year we have some watercore and a little sunburn from the warm weather in September.”

The general manager said Honeycrisp apples continue to be in high demand and many of his growers are planting the popular apple variety.

“It’s a hard apple to grow though. It grows large and tends to like bitterpit. Growers are however finding ways to curtail these problems,” he said, adding that the apple got its start in the Midwest and is also popular with South American growers.

As to why Honeycrisps are enjoying such popularity Moser said, “It’s just a good-eating piece of fruit.”

Scott Smith of Smith and Nelson in Tonasket said harvest has been going okay for their operation, but the rain slowed things down some.

“There’s been a few rainy days that we’ve had that have slowed us down, and it’s good we haven’t had more of those because most different varieties are running up to two weeks later,” Smith said. “We knew that would make it difficult, and we’re seeing that now with some of the later varieties.”

Like Gold Digger, Smith and Nelson was able to find enough labor to pick this year’s crop.

“We just don’t have enough daylight hours, especially when there is moisture or frost and we have to wait for the fruit to warm up,” said Smith. “We personally haven’t had a labor shortage. We haven’t had any extra labor, but what we’ve had has been sufficient.”

He adds that the fruit is looking okay, but there has been some concern that some of the varieties may be a little short on sugar and that is due mostly to being short on sunlight.

“Up here in the northern part of the state we’ve had a pretty good crop for most varieties. We’re harvesting about what we thought, if not more,” he said. “We’ve definitely had a bigger pear crop than we thought. Both with our neighbors and us, it’s been pretty positive.”

Smith said that the market has been pretty strong and because of the late start the fruit already in the pipeline had been mostly sold by the time his growers were getting started.

“By that time the stores were getting anxious and they were willing to pay whatever to get fruit on the shelves,” he said. “We started strong, but later than usual. We haven’t reached the peak of availability yet, so we can’t say for sure overall, but so far it looks pretty good.”

Smith said this year’s harvest was as good as last year’s and that should hold as long as Smith and Nelson has good fruit maturity and condition with their later varieties.