I've been to the Northwest a few times for reporting on apples, pears and cherries, and it is always a pleasure to visit the offices of some of the state's leading tree fruit marketers. This year's trip to Yakima and Wenatchee for cherry reporting was no exception, and I got to see the new office digs for Borton Fruit and also a glimpse at the new headquarters for Stemilt in Wenatchee. Stemilt was making a move to its new office on April 25, the day after I visited.
Beyond these notable upgrades to marketing and sales offices, the amount of infrastructure investment in Washington tree fruit country is ongoing at a pitched pace, from construction of new storage facilities for apples to the constant upgrades of packing line equipment/optical sorters for cherries and apples.
Surely the Northwest tree fruit industry is a crown jewel of the U.S. produce industry, the shiny buckle of the fruit belt. Blessed with abundant natural resources, the region has experienced persistent growth in domestic and international demand for its products. Adjustments to the variety mix for apples have pleased consumers. The net result is a string of good years, particularly for the dominant apple industry. Owners and managers have parlayed recent success with investments that promise to keep the region at the top of its game for years to come.
While California struggles with the constraints of drought and Florida’s industry battles citrus greening, there is no one formidable foe for Northwest growers and marketers. Any commodity and region will bump up limits to growth, and for the Northwest tree fruit industry this could eventually come in the forms of slowing export demand, overly ambitious expansion in acreage or the all too real possibility of damaging crimps in the labor supply. But for now, and the foreseeable future, the Northwest is showing the rest what it is like to be on top.