Okanagan orchard left rigid after worst season in 11 years

Lake Country’s Witzke Orchards looks to bounce back after poor weather destroys crops

An Okanagan orchard is working to recover lost crops after their worst season in the past decade.

Witzke Orchards in Lake Country grows cherries, pears, apricots and others through the year, and are experiencing the same troubles as many other local orchards with the increase of rain to start the summer.

“Cherries are splitting because of the rain and we’ve lost crops,” said Keith Barth with Witzke Orchards.

“You can’t really put a money value on the losses, and we really won’t know the damage until the season is over.”

Witzke Orchards recently lost their entire apricot crop in February after the cold snap through the month froze and destroyed the harvest. Apricots are harvested once a year, and the orchard will take a couple years to bounce back to full crop sizes.

Though they should have a smaller apricot crop next year, Barth said they lost close to $50,000 because of the damage to the apricot trees.

READ MORE: 10th year for South Okanagan Cherry Pit Contest

READ MORE: Possibly worst Okanagan cherry season in 20 years

Other orchards in the Okanagan have reported record losses in cherry crops due to splitting this year as well, with the Okanagan’s Kempf Orchards reporting to have loss 50 to 60 per cent of early cherry crops to splitting this year.

“We keep an eye on the forecast, and adapt and react as they day goes by. After each rain, we get out and dry them off,” said Barth.

“Usually, we never have rain that lasts more than 30 minutes at a time, but when (there’s) 12 hours of straight rain, there’s little hope. You really can’t predict Mother Nature.”

READ MORE: Family restores 63-year-old Okanagan boat to original glory

Though it’s not all doom and gloom for Witzke Orchards. Their pear crops are looking good this season and they know that poor seasons like 2019 rarely happen, and they are determined to bounce back.

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