At The Fruit Company, cherry harvest is one of the most anticipated seasons. Our orchards are located in the Columbia River Gorge, home to the highest concentration of sweet cherry acreage in the United States.
When all of those acres of cherries need to be harvested within the same few weeks, the orchards become a frenzy of activity! Cherries have a short window of availability, and require a lot of care and attention to grow and harvest.
Although the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest, with ample sunshine and cooling winds, makes for ideal growing conditions, there are many variables that can easily ruin an entire crop, (especially rain at the end of the growth cycle). If it rains close to harvest time, the water settles in the stem bowl (the divot where the stem meets the cherry) or on the skin and is absorbed into the delicate fruit. As the water expands it causes the delicate cherry skin to crack, deeming the cherry undesirable in the market. Because we do not receive much rainfall in the summer months, our region is ideal for growing cherries. The threat still looms, however, and every cherry grower casts a nervous eye over any suspicious cloud heading their way. At The Fruit Company owned and operated Webster Orchards, we take every precaution necessary to protect the Cherries, even if it means hiring a helicopter to be on stand-by! Flying a helicopter at a low altitude over our cherry orchard helps generate wind – to shake, blow and dry the cherries of any unexpected rainfall. As fun as it is to watch, it is also a very crucial part of care that we put into growing our delicious cherries!
Cherry harvest in the Northwest generally begins in early June and lasts until August, depending on the cherry variety and elevation of the orchard. Harvest starts at first light, when the fruit is still cool and firm. Workers pick the fruit by hand into buckets strapped over their shoulders, then transfer it into buckets on the ground, which are emptied into shallow bins being pulled behind a tractor. The bins are stacked and loaded onto a truck which then brings the fruit to a warehouse, where it is cooled, cleaned, sorted, and packaged. The Fruit Company cherries are generally harvested, packed and sent to you or your gift recipient all within a day!