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Orchard View sees later harvest but expects bigger volume

With harvest still a more than a month away, Brenda Thomas, president and general manager of Orchard View Farms in The Dalles, OR, said it was difficult to pinpoint a date when first cherry loads would leave the family-owned facility.

But Ms. Thomas said that when volume hits later in the season, she expects to see an increase over last year’s numbers.

Brenda Thomas, president and general manager of Orchard View Farms in The Dalles, OR, said first shipments of dark sweet cherries from her family’s operation will likely go out June 20 to June 25. (Photo courtesy of Orchard View Farms)

Handling both domestic and export sales is Vancouver, BC-based The Oppenheimer Group, and Ms. Thomas said, “We feel we are a good competitor in the market, and [Oppenheimer] makes very sure we match the right cherry to the right customer.”

Looking at timing for this year’s first loads, Ms. Thomas told The Produce News May 9. “We’re thinking June 20 to 25. Historically it’s been June 15, but after the last five years we really don’t know what ‘normal’ is. Now we talk about normal going forward.”

Ms. Thomas said that extreme cold that hit some growing areas in November skirted The Dalles.

“We didn’t get the November cold. Our lateness is because of a cold spring. At this point we’ve had only two 70-degree days, and I’m still wearing a sweater to work.”

She added that over the last five years Orchard View has seen both its largest and its smallest crops.

“In 2008 we had our smallest ever, and in 2009 we had our largest ever,” she said. “And in 2010 we thought we would be early with the harvest, but we ended up being late.”

Weather anomalies or the “new normal” aside, Orchard View is anticipating an increase of 25 percent over last year.

“Since we didn’t get the effects of the cold temperatures that affected other growers, we expect more fruit,” she said.

Additionally, Orchard View, which produces primarily dark sweet varieties with a smaller percentage of Rainiers, has increased its leased land, adding acreage that was already in production.

If the first shipments of dark sweets do go out the third week of June, the cherries will ship through early August. Later varieties such as Chelans, Lapins, Skeenas, Reginas, Sweethearts and Bentons extend the season, Ms. Thomas said, adding that Bings and Sweethearts are the two most productive varieties.

Rainiers are expected to ship the month of July this year, and Ms. Thomas said she does not expect the fruit to start before July 4.

As the fourth generation of the family business, Ms. Thomas oversees operations on 2,000 acres of fresh cherries. The packing facility, with three lines, utilizes state-of-the-art equipment that includes an optical sorter.

Orchard View also seals each cherry box in “View Fresh,” a proprietary modified atmosphere pack invented by Ms. Thomas’ grandfather, Don Bailey, and his brother, Tom, in the early 1990s. The patented process was designed specifically to keep premium sweet cherries fresh for 35-45 days after packing, and today “View Fresh” is used by sweet cherry growers, packers, and exporters worldwide. It is also requested by buyers globally.

“We put all of our cherries in ‘View Fresh’ bags,” Ms. Thomas said. “It maintains the quality of the green stem.”

In addition, Orchard View adheres to Tesco Nature’s Choice farming practices. Ms. Thomas said the company is GlobalGAP-certified and current with all traceability codes.