Regional Public Journalism
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Some Washington Cherry Orchards Short Of Labor This Year

Anna King
Northwest News Network
Some cherry orchards in eastern Washington are experiencing labor shortages.

Northwest sweet cherry experts are reporting that some orchards are having a hard time getting their fruit picked this year.

Sometimes Eastern Washington farmers will start the day with 100 pickers but lose most of their workforce by noon that day. What’s happening there is workers with cell phones call their neighbors, friends and family and ask how much they are earning at a different orchard.

If their pay is higher, they start jumping orchards. They will pile in a car and drive to the orchard that is paying the most money that day. It’s really interesting that the workforce is so mobile.

Washington state is set to harvest about 60 percent of the cherries in the United States -- that’s about 15 million 20-pound boxes this year. Last year Washington harvested 19 million boxes.

Washington has the most acres of cherry orchards in the United States at 40,000 acres. California is a close second at 32,000 acres. Oregon is the second biggest in the Northwest at 14,000 acres. There aren’t current U.S. Department of Agriculture numbers for Idaho, but experts estimate the state has about 3,000 to 4,000 thousand acres.

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.