July is a busy month at the orchard; full of picking lots of delicious fruit. A few in particular we look forward to harvesting and using in our cider is cherries and apricots. There are a few reasons why the Yakima Valley and Tieton in particular is an excellent place to grow apricots and cherries. First, both need a certain amount of chill hours to be fruitful. Chill hours are a measure of the accumulated hours below 45 F. Most cherries require over 700 hours and apricots require at least 300 hours. Our climate is also a very important factor. Warm summers are great for apricot maturation and the lack of rain (Tieton is in the desert) allows us to give trees the exact amount of water they need.
We currently farm about 20 acres of apricots and 30 acres of cherries. That may sound like it takes a while to pick but we have a very short window when the fruit is at their peak so we need to get them out of the orchard and cooled down as soon as possible. Apricot harvest lasts a few weeks as we color-pick through multiple passes; picking the very ripest ones on each pass. Cherry harvest only lasts a few days and often overlaps with apricot harvest.
All of our apricots and cherries are all picked by hand. This is very labor intensive but it is the only way to ensure the fresh fruit makes it into the harvest bin unscathed. Apricots are hand packed by us and sent out to customers along the West Coast. The apricots that may be too ripe to last on store shelves will be sorted out and processed into juice that we use in cider. Cherries go through the same process only they are sent to a larger packing facility to be sorted and packed.
After just a few short weeks, the trees are bare again and the fruit is sent off to be enjoyed fresh or in our ciders. We say, “From our orchards to your glass” because we are more than just cider makers but also farmers who care about the quality of our fruit that will go into our cider.