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‘It’s been a complete disaster’: Okanagan cherry farmers desperate for good crop

Some cherry farmers in the Okanagan expect to lose more than half of their crops because of the recent rain.

Many farmers in the Okanagan have been pleased with the amount of rain in the region recently, but cherry farmers think the wet weather is the pits.

“It’s been a complete disaster,” said Herb Kempf, an orchardist.

“We didn’t expect this rain to last this long.”

READ MORE: Rainy start to summer could damage cherry crop in the Okanagan

The rainy conditions have washed away farmers’ hopes of a bountiful crop.

“Once the cherries reach the point where they’re pink, that’s when they become vulnerable to cracking,” said David Geen, owner-operator of Coral Beach Farms.

Cracked cherries can’t be sold because of how quickly they spoil.
Cracked cherries can’t be sold because of how quickly they spoil. Global News

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“Cherries crack because the flesh of the cherry absorbs water and expands more quickly than the skin can accommodate it.”

Farmers say they can’t sell cracked cherries because of how quickly the inside, or flesh, can spoil.

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“For shipping, they won’t keep,” Kempf said. “And if you put them in a box, and even if they’re a little bit wet, it’s no good either.”

Despite a constant effort to dry the cherries using helicopters and tractor-drawn blow dryers, the rain proved to be too much for this year’s crop.

“This is the first time in years we’ve actually filed for crop insurance,” Kempf said.

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For smaller operations, attempting to dry cherries with helicopters in a rainy season can prove to be too costly.

“We’re not a big enough of operation to justify the cost of a helicopter,” said Allen Arndt of Arndt Orchards.

“At $1,200 an hour, that’s a lot of money, so we do our best with some of the sprays that are available.”

Their best efforts weren’t enough, though, as Arndt predicts he has lost roughly half of his crop.

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