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Apple Farmers Scramble To Save Last Of Their Fruit

Anna King
Northwest News Network

An arctic air mass has swept into the Northwest. Cold air and snow are expected from central Washington through central Oregon and even into Idaho’s central Panhandle.

That means farmers in the region are rushing to harvest the last of their apples before the fruit freezes.

In southeast Washington, Joe Shelton manages one of the world’s largest fruit orchards. He said few things are colder than a picking bag full of 30 pounds of 30-degree fruit strapped close to your body.

This week, Shelton has been running crews until midnight trying to save the last of the orchard’s Fujis and Braeburns. All together, Shelton said about 30,000 boxes of apples will probably rot on the trees.

“It’s hard, everyone is kind of deflated, ‘cause we’ve all worked so hard,” Shelton said. “Even all the guys that we have out there picking, it’s like a week shorter of harvest, they could have made another week’s wages. You just hate to see them hanging out there and going to nothing.”

Once apples freeze, they can’t go to the fresh market. And Shelton said juice prices are so low this year it doesn’t pay to pick them.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.