Rain forces drastic measures

Unprecedented efforts are underway to save the North Okanagan’s cherry crop.

Unprecedented efforts are underway to save the North Okanagan’s cherry crop.

Virtual non-stop rain threatens to split clusters of cherries just waiting to be harvested. As a result, growers are using helicopters and fans to salvage the crop and any attempt of pocketing some revenue.

“It’s an endless battle to try and keep the cherries dry,” said Sid Sidhu, with Vernon’s Bella Vista Farm Market.

“Once they are split, the cherries are absolutely useless.”

Late-season varieties like lapins were developed to escape the Okanagan’s traditional early July thunderstorms, but this summer’s uncharacteristic wet weather has orchardists frustrated.

“If this is an indication of July, what will August bring?” said Sidhu.

A common scene at the Bella Vista Road farm over the last few days has been a helicopter using its large blades to generate wind and push the water off the fruit. Orchard workers are also spending considerable time sorting through the cherries to ensure there is sufficient supply for the market’s customers.

Whether it’s the “thousands” on the helicopter, or the increased wages, Sidhu admits this year’s cherry crop is increasingly expensive.

“The more we spend on cherries, the less we make but we still have to pay the bills,” he said of why he continues to harvest the crop.

“It’s a fight worth fighting especially when there is an excellent crop.”

There’s a similar situation down Highway 97 at Gatzke Orchards in Oyama, where the rain damage ranges from 15 to 60 per cent depending on the variety.

Every attempt is being made to remove rain off the fruit, including renting a helicopter for $1,200 an hour, blowers attached to tractors and wind machines.

“None of the options are cheap. The helicopter is probably the cheapest,” said owner Alan Gatzke, adding that a wind machine can eat through $500 a night in gas and the blowers require staff to drive the tractors.

“On Wednesday night, we were out from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. blowing the rain off.”

At times it almost seems like an endless routine.

“We’re still taking on damage with everything we’re doing,” said Gatzke.

But Gatzke and his family are also being creative and trying to find ways to use some of the damaged cherries.

“We’re making pies like crazy,” he said.

 

 

 

-Vernon Morningstar

Just Posted

Car torched: $1,000 reward offered for return of stolen massage machine

Odette Baumgartner’s vehicle was stolen and then burned in Kelowna.

Dust advisory in affect for Kelowna

Avoid roads with heavy vehicle traffic

SNC-Lavalin maintaining WR Bennett Bridge amidst controversy in Ottawa

The engineering company designed and maintains the bridge between Kelowna and West Kelowna

Big White firefighters camp on roof to raise money

The eighth annual Rooftop Camp Out, hosted by the Big White Fire Department, starts Friday

World Water Day: Special challenge issued to youth to be climate conscious

Friday, March 22, the Okanagan Basin Water Board is issuing a special challenge

Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash sentenced to eight years

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Fundraiser for South Okanagan “supermom” who died suddenly

Friends described the 40-year-old Penticton woman as a supermom.

Vernon workshop explores anxiety in search of hope

Understanding Anxiety and Embracing Hope event open to registration

B.C. conservation officers talk bear awareness

How to stay safe this spring in bear country

Fierce feline spotted as ‘aggressor’ in face off with coyote in B.C. backyard

North Vancouver resident Norm Lee captures orange cat versus coyote in backyard showdown

Wilson-Raybould to reveal more details, documents on SNC-Lavalin affair

Former attorney general has written to the House of Commons justice committee

Anti-discrimination group wants to map offenders with cross-Canada hate atlas

Morgane Oger Foundation issues call for volunteers to help build Canadian Atlas of Populist Extremism

Kater to launch ridesharing service in Vancouver by end of month

The Surrey-based company got its permits from the Vancouver Taxi Association

Most Read