Okanagan tree fruits ahead of schedule

The Okanagan’s bounty is coming earlier than usual this year. Farmers are expecting early harvests of peaches and other tree fruits.

If Tom Davison was to ignore the calendar and just look at his Vernon orchards, he’d guess it was early September not the middle of August.

From apples to peaches his tree fruits are ripening well ahead of schedule this year.

“We should be right in the middle of peach harvest and we are almost finished,” Davison said.

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Jane-Marie James, who operates a u-pick operation in the Kelowna area has noticed the same thing with her peaches.

“We’ve never been picking this early before,” James said.

The making of this early harvest goes back to the beginning of the growing season when Okanagan fruit trees bloomed early.

Read More: Early blooms put crops at mercy of frost

However, the early start to the season put this year’s crops at the mercy of a sudden cold snap. A frost, once the trees were already in bloom, could have had devastating consequences.

“We are not really safe, in terms of being free from frost, until about the beginning of May. So, when you are in blossom in April you feel like you are in Vegas and the farm is on the table and somebody else is rolling the dice,” Davison said.

But farmers got lucky and in some ways an early peach harvest means they don’t have to again gamble with the weather.

“It is always nice to get [harvesting] out of the way when the weather is good. This time of year anything can happen in terms of hail. We’ve had hail storms come through in August before and once the peaches are pitted by hail, they really don’t have much of a shelf life,” James said.

However, not all crops are ahead of schedule. At Davison Orchards the ground crops, including tomatoes and peppers, are behind due to the relatively cold weather in June and July.

For consumers, the early fruit harvest means if you are hoping to buy local tree fruits, don’t wait too long or you could end up missing the crop.

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