The Hood River County fruit harvest is in full swing. The first two photos above, of Boscs in Odell and apples in Pine Grove, were taken before the onset of wildfire smoke, and orchardists have had to respond to the air quality crisis to safeguard workers’ safety as the harvest continues.
Mike Doke, director of Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers, spent the weekend distributing KN-95 masks to orchardists for their employees.
Anjous, the primary crop in Hood River, “are looking really good,” Doke said.
Harvest of Bartletts and other summer pears is all but done. Overall, the county looks to surpass its 2019 harvest, with 154,669 tons, 40 percent of the projected Pacific Northwest pear total volume of 366,000 tons.
“Outside of the challenge of COVID-19 and those rules, things are going very well,” Doke said. “It was a concern early on but labor is in great supply. Most growers have figured things out, as they were already preparing for Covid-19 before the state put in new rules on housing, sanitation and transportation,” Doke said.
Orchardists have more than doubled the number of portable sanitation stations; federal funds reimburse farmers for the units for a portion of picking season — typically about $500 out of $5,000 each. “It’s an investment, and the investments were being made as the orchardists believe in taking care of their workers, as we saw this weekend giving out masks.”