Pacific Northwest Heat Wave Raises Concerns for Farmers Across Oregon and Washington; Mac Riggan, Brad Fowler, and Anthony Innocenti Comment
OREGON & WASHINGTON - Many associate the Pacific Northwest with mild weather and rainy days, but that association has taken a backseat after a historic heat wave has swept the region. With Portland breaking heat records and clocking degrees as high as 112—with Seattle close behind at 104—the upswing in temperature has raised concern. Representatives from companies operating in both Oregon and Washington offered their insight into what these conditions mean for produce operators.
We were especially interested in what these conditions might mean for cherries, one of the region’s most in-demand products. Mac Riggan, Director of Marketing for Chelan Fresh, helped us understand the situation.
“The heat is definitely a concern in the Pacific Northwest and we will mitigate picking and packing hours where we can. Traditionally, we pick from about 5 a.m. to noon or 1 p.m. and our teams will be keeping an eye on the temperature to make sure that we pull the crews out of the orchards when it hits 85 degrees," Mac said in a statement to ANUK. "We can also pick and pack at night as needed. The crop will thin and there could be a temporary dip in supply from reduced packouts, but Washington shippers have the discipline and diligence to pack quality fruit so that should keep premium fruit in the market. Overall, Washington cherries are looking pretty good and the quality seems to be there going into this week."
The most recent report from AccuWeather describes the heat wave as not only historic, but potentially life-threatening.
For many in the Pacific Northwest without air conditioners, that is no exaggeration. Meterologists have explained that this region seeing triple-digit temperatures is essentially unheard of. Average highs in both Oregon and Washington are often in the 70s and 80s.
“Growing cherries is risky business—it always has been and it always will be,” added Brad Fowler, Co-Founder of Hood River Cherry Company. “The Northwest cherry industry is like a deer in the headlights right now. We are going to get run over by this heatwave, there is no avoiding it. But how bad is it going to hurt? Cherries don’t do well in the heat. Farms that are harvesting now are going to be affected by this. The question is, will the later districts that have fruit that is still unripe survive and still harvest quality fruit in late July and August? We just don’t know. We have no experience with extreme heat so early in the season. As always, we hope that all of the cherry producers have a successful crop and survive the unknown.”
According to a report from The Seattle Times, farmers along the Cascades are doing all they can to protect crops, such as the aforementioned cherries as well as apples. Although the harvest is still a few weeks away, the heat could cause some apples to get sunburned, which would result in blotches that would keep them from going to market.
Another report from AP News noted that berry growers in both Oregon and Washington are doing the same to protect their crops. We reached out to berry operators but have yet to hear back.
LIV Organic Produce, which grows potatoes and onions in Washington, reported the following on how the heat wave may affect operations.
“Although it’s too early to say exactly how this heat wave will affect crops, we’re going to start our new crop organic onions and potatoes earlier than expected by two to three weeks,” remarked Anthony Innocenti, Co-Founder and Managing Partner. “I do know that quality thus far looks to be excellent. We did a sample harvest of potatoes last week, and they looked really nice. They had a solid color and the skins were set.”
AndNowUKnow will continue to keep monitoring the situation, and we keep our friends in the Pacific Northwest in our thoughts.