Jul 20, 2022
IFTA tour highlights Washington fruit tree production systems

The International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) summer tour provided participants insights into how growers can more efficiently grow apples, pears and cherries. This year, members of the Kennewick, Washington-based organization toured central and southeast Washington orchards July 17-20.

The tour began in Richland, followed by visits to orchards in Pasco, Royal City, Quincy, Leavenworth and Wenatchee.

At a recently harvested cherry orchard north of Pasco, Denny Hayden of Hayden Farms discussed how his operation grows cherries on a v-trellis system.

Labor issues remain paramount.

“One reason we went to deep trellises, we’re trying to automate as much as possible,” Hayden said. “We want to automate trimming. Labor is difficult. It’s getting tougher to get crews. The labor situation is untenable from a management standpoint.”

This was the first time that apple grower Rick Keim, owner of Keim Orchards in Douglass Township, Pennsylvania, visited Washington.

“I really like this tour,” Keim said. “The technology is still being developed, but it is impressive (although it) cannot be applied for every grower. It is fascinating to see the way growers in Washington work.

“Let’s face it, Washington is No. 1,” he said. “I like seeing how they are growing and changing their growing systems.”

Growers from throughout the U.S. and across the globe participated in the tour, including Canada, Mexico, Chile and Ireland.  More than 100 were registered to attend, according to the IFTA.

—Doug Ohlemeier

PHOTO: Denny Hayden of Hayden Farms in Pasco, Washington, (center, in blue shirt) discusses sweet cherry production July 18 during the International Fruit Tree Association summer tour of eastern Washington orchards. PHOTO: Doug Ohlemeier

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