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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Child care coming to Lake Country high school

81 new space facility expected to be completed by spring 2022

Okanagan temperatures hit 30 C by end of September

The autumn equinox takes place in the northern hemisphere on Sept. 22

Vernon centre lights up for visibility amid pandemic

Impact of COVID-19 on live event workers sparks Canadian movement

Work limits Lake Country road access

Bottom Wood Lake Road closed to southbound traffic

Wanted man with violent past might be in Okanagan

RCMP asking for public’s help in locating Roy Andrew

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

Four wanted individuals believed to be in Vernon

RCMP seek public’s assistance in locating three men and one woman

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

COVID-19 makes its mark on Shuswap schools, teachers and parents

Pandemic keeps more students than expected away from conventional schooling

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Vancouver Island family overwhelmed with 14 Lab puppies

Litter may be one of the biggest ever

Most Read