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Ricardo Davila pours Chelan cherries into a bin at the Edgar Perez Orchard in Rock Island. It was the first day of harvest and the cherries have good size and color this year, orchard owner Edgar Perez said.

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All about the ‘Bing’ | Let the cherry season begin

WENATCHEE — Cherries are here!

They started picking early cherries about a week ago in Mattawa,” Tianna Dupont of the Washington State University Extension office said on June 11. “They’re just getting started in Wenatchee. People can start looking for them.”

The Peachman (formerly Tontz Orchards) in East Wenatchee opened June 18 and Stutzman Ranch in Monitor opened June 22, according to their Facebook pages.

By then, the commercial cherry harvest was in full swing.

Northwest Cherry Growers marketing vice president James Michael said retailers have been hungry for cherry supplies.

California growers faced a laundry list of challenges this year,” he said, creating a supply gap.

Washington cherry growers will be able to fill the void. All signs point to a cherry crop in the 23 million-box range, barring any blips along the way.


Fruit pest trap season begins

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has begun its annual hunt for pests that threaten the state’s ag industry. Trappers are hitting the road to set traps throughout the state to monitor for the introduction or spread of a variety of invasive pests, including apple maggot, gypsy moths and Japanese beetle.

Trappers will place about 11,000 apple maggot traps in Eastern Washington. Apple maggot presents a significant risk to the state’s iconic apple industry but the majority of Washington’s main apple-growing region remains free of apple maggot.

To monitor the pests, trappers place grids of traps throughout the state at various densities. Residents are asked not to disturb insect traps they may encounter and report fallen traps at 1-800-443-6684. For details, visit agr.wa.gov.



Chelan Fruit and Gebbers Farms signed a license agreement to grow and sell Dazzle apples, a red apple variety originating from New Zealand.

The two companies are the first to be licensed to produce and market the apples. They have committed to plant 3 million trees in 12 years, starting in 2020.

Fruitcraft, a collaboration between New Zealand apple growers Mr. Apple, Bostock New Zealand and Freshmax, launched the Dazzle variety last year.

Chelan Fruit has 325 grower members, with 14,000 acres. Gebbers Farms has 13,500 acres in apples and cherries. The two companies market through Chelan Fresh, which they co-own.

Commercial plantings are expected to begin in 2020.


More cherry news

With cherry season underway, several growers and packers are weighing in on the marketing side of things. The Packer, a trade publication for the fruit industry, offered a round up of changes. (https://wwrld.us/2sYNOoo)

♦ Chelan Fresh Marketing in Chelan expects to have about 90,000 boxes of Orondo Ruby cherries this year, up from 70,000 last year.

♦ Wenatchee’s CMI Orchards has increased its organic cherry volume by half, offering Chelan, Bing, Skeena, Lapin and Rainier. The company has updated its website and added marketing and food safety employees.

♦ Wenatchee’s Oneonta Starr Growers has added two optical sorters to its cherry packing house in the past three years, along with some clamshell machines and new front-end bin dumper to help handle growth. The company will pack 2.3 million boxes of cherries this season, but should be able to handle 2.8 million cartons in a few years.


Helicopter pilot walks away after hitting power lines

ORONDO — A pilot walked away without injury after the Bell 206 helicopter she was flying hit power lines  while drying off cherries.

The accident, in an orchard about four miles south of the Beebe Bridge, was reported at 6:39 a.m. Sunday, June 17.

Orondo Fire Chief Jim Oatey said the helicopter was sitting upright when firefighters arrived on the scene. The tail section was broken and burns were visible on the sides where the power lines had arced.

She did a good job of setting it down,” he said. “Tangling with those lines, you would expect more of a catastrophic accident.”


Large orchard burn fights fire blight

SUNNYSLOPE —  A landowner with bad infestation of fire blight, a bacteria that can ruin fruit trees, burned a 5-acre block of pear orchard between Monitor and Sunnyslope June 9 and 10, according to Chelan County Fire Marshal Bob Plumb.

This season has been particularly bad because of a “perfect storm” of conditions that converged in late April. Warm temperatures combined with high humidity and open blossoms created an ideal mixture for the bacteria to spread, said Will Carpenter, director of the Chelan-Douglas Horticultural Pest and Disease Board.

Fruit trees, pear and apple in this area particularly, get fire blight every year to some degree, Carpenter said. This year is as bad as he’s seen it.


Douglas County considers easing cannabis farm setbacks

EAST WENATCHEE — Outdoor cannabis farms in Douglas County could locate closer to town under a proposed change to the county’s development code.

Well, closer as the crow flies.

The draft amendment would reduce the current one-mile setback for the outdoor production of marijuana to a half mile if the edge of the farm fence is at least 1,000 feet higher in elevation than the nearest point of the urban growth boundary.

The proposal was discussed at a June 13 Douglas County Planning Commission study session. 

Douglas County Planner Mark Kulaas said the idea to factor in elevation differences was sparked by a marijuana farmer interested in using property that is considerably higher than the outer edge of East Wenatchee’s urban growth boundary.

All of the other setbacks would remain the same.

The draft amendment was sent May 30 to the state Department of Commerce for review, which initiated a comment period that ends July 30. A public hearing on the proposal is expected to be scheduled Aug. 8.


State buys final 7,217 acres of 20,500-acre wildlife area in Douglas County

GRAND COULEE — Things are looking up for hunters, fishers, birdwatchers and sharp-tailed grouse in northern Douglas County.

Washington State Fish and Wildlife closed a $3.1 million deal April 27 on 7,217 acres of Grand Coulee Ranch LLC. It’s the third and last piece needed to turn a would-be 20,500-acre destination resort into the Big Bend Wildlife Area.

The area would conserve critical wildlife habitat and secure public recreation access to the land and to Douglas County portions of the Columbia River and Rufus Woods Lake.

The property includes native shrub steppe, prime habitat for the sharp-tailed grouse, which has been listed by the state as a threatened species.