Chelan Fresh is proud to represent the growers of Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties in Washington State. Each month we will introduce them to you in our “Meet the Grower” series. Check in regularly with our blog – To The Core - to find out what’s happening in the orchards that produce some of Washington’s Finest Mountain Grown Fruit.
This month we are talking with Harold Peebles, of Chelan, Washington.
Chelan Fresh: Hello Harold, thank you for taking the time today to have a quick chat during cherry harvest. Let’s start by hearing a little about your orchard.
Harold Peebles: Well, we finished up our cherry harvest yesterday so timing is good. Our orchard is located in the Boyd district here in the Chelan Valley which is about 2,000 feet in elevation. We have 34 acres of cherries up there.
CF: What variety of cherries do you grow?
HP: We grow Sweet Hearts and Skeena cherries, they are a late Canadian variety which run about 2-3 weeks later than the Bing cherry.
CF: How do you feel this year’s harvest looks?
HP: We picked a pretty nice, full crop this year, now we wait to see if that was a good thing to do or not!! Timing wise, it was a good weather year for cherries and we picked right about where we expected to be from bloom date. Not like the last two years, which were really early.
CF: We didn’t seem to have a lot of late rain this year, but we have been getting pretty extreme heat the last few years, does that impact the cherries at all?
HP: If it does get too hot you can get sun burn on the fruit and it can push maturity up a bit, but we have been luck the last several years and have not had any issues.
CF: How long have you been a grower here in Chelan? Are you taking over from a family member?
HB: I started growing apples in 1971. I bought that land before it had water on it, and planted apples when we first got water. It actually used to be wheat land. I started planting cherries about 15 years ago, have since sold my apples and am just growing cherries now.
CF: So you are a pioneer orchardist, thats an interesting piece of history! Do you have kids that would like to take over the orchard in the future?
HP: We plan to keep the orchard in the family either working it ourselves, or we might end up leasing it. I have a son, Robert, and a daughter, Jennifer, but I don’t know exactly how that is going to work out with them.
CF: What is your outlook on the future of the orchard industry?
HP: Well, I think that the future certainly looks good, there is as many, if not more, opportunities out there today, with room for the large and small growers. I think the key to success is planting the right variety and finding a good niche for yourself. Right now there are not that many varieties for cherries as there are for apples so you will have to do a good job with farming, have good production and grow quality fruit.
CF: What happens in the orchard now that the harvest is done?
HP: The crews go back to the apples orchards and try to catch up for lost time during cherry harvest. As for the trees, we keep them watered, feed and in good shape until they go dormant for the winter and start the process all over again.
CF: What is your favorite part about growing cherries?
HP: I think there is something special about bloom time! And certainly harvest is an exciting time as well.
CF: What is the most challenging part of growing?
HP: Of course, the weather is the one thing that we cannot control and it can be challenging for cherries. Rain and cherries together create a great big problem! With apples you can store them, think about it and wiggle and squirm for a bit, but with cherries you have to get them packed and shipped out right away which can be hectic.
CF: Thanks for your time Harold, I hope you get a chance to enjoy summer a bit now that harvest is over!
HP: You bet, thank you!