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Washington apples up in volume and quality, priming a special season

By
Kyle Eberth

The 2023 apple crop is shaping up nicely after receiving incredible weather in Washington state. “The 2023 apple crop has taken a complete 180 compared to last year’s crop,” said Brianna Shales, marketing director at Stemilt Growers. “We’re very excited for the upcoming season and are expecting more apples with great eating quality and color as a result of the optimal weather we’ve had in Washington.”

Scott McDougall, president of McDougall and Sons, agreed, this year’s Washington crop is special. “This is one of the nicest — cleanest in terms of russeting and blemishes — apple crops I’ve ever seen at this point in the growing season. We’re hopeful for an epic season ahead,” he said.

Robb Myers, vice president of business development at CMI said, “We set a lot of king blossoms this year, and the best blooms always produce the best fruit. On top of that, the weather hasn’t been too hot, which means the trees are able to focus on growing the fruit rather than trying to survive any sort of inclement weather conditions.”

“The entire growing season saw favorable conditions, and if we continue to have great weather during harvest it will be a large crop with high quality fruit,” said Jim Thomas, owner and president of Starr Ranch.

The Washington State Tree Fruit Association August estimate puts this year’s volume around 134 million cases.

The projected increase is nothing short of impressive, with apple production expected to rise from 104 million to 135 million cases, marking a substantial 29 percent growth. A true standout is the anticipated surge in Honeycrisp apples, set to soar by an astounding 62 percent, ascending from 12 million to 20 million boxes.

CMI’s Joel Hewitt, domestic sales and organic manager, agreed with the report, “Our forecast shows that we’re going to be up in everything: organic, core and managed variety volume. Sizing looks optimal and the condition of the crop is shaping up nicely to have year-round availability for most of our varieties.”

As for marketing this year’s crop, Cat Gipe-Stewart, director of marketing for Superfresh Growers, emphasized the importance of diversification because a complementary approach enables retailers to maximize sales potential and cater to varying consumer preferences.

“We recommend pairing Honeycrisp with another high-value variety, like the Cosmic Crisp," she said. "Cosmic Crisp has rightfully earned its place in many core apple sets, rising to the top 10 in only its third year of commercialization.” 

Next year will mark Rainier Fruit’s 50th year in business. Blake Belknap, vice president of sales said, “We’re celebrating a half century of shipping quality fruit from multigenerational family farms here in the heart of Washington’s apple country. We’re proud to continue our founder Bill Zirkle’s mission of providing top-notch customer service while treating people and the land right — hopefully for many more generations to come.”

Rainier also announced the addition of Columbia Reach growers to the Rainier family of grower-packers for the 2023 crop year and beyond. “The shed is locally-owned, vertically integrated, and grows fantastic fruit that will fit right in with Rainier’s existing premium lineup,” said Belknap.

This season Sage Fruit will again partner with Chelan Fruit. Chelan Fruit brings with it nearly 3,000 acres of farming operation, complete with packing and cold storage facilities. The additional acreage spans the northern growing region of Washington state, providing Sage Fruit with greater geographical diversification. Kaci Komstadius, director of marketing at Sage Fruit said, “Partnering with Chelan Fruit has increased our company’s ability to supply our customers with the best tasting, highest quality tree fruit Washington state has to offer.”

Kyle Eberth

Kyle Eberth

About Kyle Eberth  |  email

Kyle Eberth is new to the produce industry, but has grown up around it, in proclaimed "Apple Capitol of the World," Wenatchee, WA. For the past 14-years he has worked in the non-profit sector with an emphasis on brand storytelling, community engagement, and donor relationships.

Kyle graduated from Whitworth University (Spokane, WA) in 2007. He and wife Kelsey were married shortly thereafter, when they moved to Wenatchee to launch their careers.  Kyle is "Dad" to Brooklyn and Hudson, together the Eberths enjoy skiing, biking, their family and friends, and playing together in the beautiful place they get to live.

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