We are now in our third week of harvest. With sweets finished last week, we are well into our tart cherries now. A couple hours ago we finished harvesting our third of six farms. I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel! Almost. We still have around 120 acres of orchard to get to. With such a large tart cherry crop across the region, our processor has been backed up the past week. For us in the orchard this means we are put on “quota” or limited to a certain number of tanks. In the short term it’s not that bad because we get out early, but in the long run it really hurts us. We are in a hurry to get our cherries off the trees since they ripened so quickly with the heat this year. In addition, the longer they hang on the tree the more susceptible to spotted wing drosophila they become. All loads delivered to the receiving station are inspected, and if SWD larvae is found in just one of your tanks then the whole load will be rejected. So far we have not had any issues, so we have been lucky. Well, maybe not lucky, but we managed our orchards via spraying early on very effectively this year.
Pictured above are freshly harvested tart cherries. These tanks are being cooled off at one of our farms cooling pads before being trucked to the receiving station. The white “H” you see in each of the tanks is essentially a four pronged probe made of PVC pipe. At the bottom of each fork there are 2 holes. Water is pumped through these “coolers” as we call them; the water is around 40 degrees. The cold water comes out at the bottom of the tank and forces the warm water up and out of the tank which flows over into a gutter system. This process helps preserve the fruit while it is transported to be processed.
In previous posts I have talked about the brine pits that we have at our receiving station. Pictured above is one of those pits, with the elevator on the left. Cherries are dumped into the top of the elevator with a forklift that has rollover abilities. The cherries are lifted on the conveyor belt, which you can see, and dumped into the pit. The pit is filled with a mixture of several sodium based chemicals. Each pit holds an average of 180,000 pounds of cherries. The little yellow and red cherries you see in the solution will be pumped out next spring, and processed for maraschino cherries.