June 17, 2013 - 9:51 AM
Crates of plump red strawberries were hard to resist at the Kelowna Farmers' and Crafters' Market this Saturday. The arrival of the strawberry harvest kicks off the Okanagan's soft fruit season – which is a full week ahead of schedule this year.
Local farmer and orchardist Alan Gatzke says we can thank the warm weather back in April. But that same heat spell is responsible for a lighter than usual harvest, he says.
While the blooms were open “the weather turned...one night at the airport it reached minus five degrees” which he says was just enough for a frost to set in. The frost damaged the reproductive organs of the blossoms so they were, “no longer able to be pollinated,” he says.
This means apricot and plums will ripen early this year, but will only make up half the usual crop.
Nectarines are in the same boat, Gatzke says and are “probably half a crop.”
Peaches and cherries will also be lighter this year but the abundance will vary between locations.
“Geography played a big role,” he says and in some cases, "the slope can work in your favour, frost can roll down hill."
Glenmore tends to be a frost pocket and some of its farmers were, “hit quite hard, some varieties probably reduced by 70 per cent,” he says.
“In my farm here in Oyama, one variety of cherries is half a crop”
As for peaches, he says they're looking pretty good at his orchard, but, “I do see a lot less to choose from for thinning.” Often only one in ten peaches will be sent to market.
“We thin as much as 90 per cent” he says. But the unwanted fruits don't go to waste.
“They fall to ground and decompose into nutrients and fertilizer,” he says.
Overall, Gatzke expects it will be a strong year for sales, with high prices. “The whole valley will be lightened," but not every farmer will have a reduced crop, he says.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at email@example.com or call (250)718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013