Good Fruit Grower

November 2015

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12 NOVEMBER 2015 GOOD FRUIT GROWER annually about having the right insur- ance for your business, at the right time, Darlington said. "You might not insure four-wheelers for your property, because there might be 60 or 70 of them scattered around 20 different ranches. But if they're all in one given location in the winter, in one garage, it might be worth covering." Chelan Fruit Chelan Fruit lost around $60 million worth of buildings and equipment—a presizing line with a capacity of 100,000 bins and two packaging lines with a capacity of 150,000 bins each season— as well as about $35 million worth of packed inventory and rolling stock, Chief Executive Officer Reggie Collins said. The co-op that serves 300 growers was adequately insured, he said, and rented storage from nearby competitors. "We've got the fruit, we can take all of it," he said. "Thank goodness it wasn't a record crop like last year." Planning for a fresh start Continued industry growth definitely factors into rebuilding considerations. In addition to record cherry and apple crops in 2014, with general industry consensus that those records may mark a new base- line, organic production also continues to increase. Blue Bird itself owns 750 acres of pears and apples, 75 percent of which are certi- fied organic. All will be certified organic by 2017. "Our intention is to satisfy our con- tinued growth and take advantage of the fact that we are able to build a whole new building," Gonsalves said. "Organic, we have a big crop coming on next year, so we need to get everyone on line to handle the cherry crop by June 1 and the new apple crop by August 15." Blue Bird never questioned rebuilding. The co-op invested $4.5 million in storage at the Wenatchee site in 2011. The new building will be slightly larger, with similar dimensions and layout, but some rearranging of entrances and the addition of more natural light. Both the cherry and apple lines will be larger to reflect the projected industry growth. Collins said Chelan Fruit representa- tives will travel to Europe to see its latest technologies in presizing and packing equipment, with particular focus on robotics. "Labor is tough up here. We'll always have plenty of jobs for the people we can find, but we've got to look at some new robotic systems," he said. "We didn't have any indications or plans in the short-term to replace those lines. They were very adequate for what we need until the next generation comes along," he said. "We're taking this as an opportunity to see who has the best and what's the best way to handle these standard varieties that we have today, as well as the new varieties that are coming along." Food safety precautions also factor into the rebuilding for both coopera- tives – everything from the elevation of the equipment to the manufacturing material and ability to replace or sanitize brushes and lines. "We want to make sure we're doing everything we can to upgrade anything we've lost," Collins said. Fire prevention No one wants to pretend the unthink- able can't happen again. Chelan Fruit and Blue Bird are looking at making changes to the roofs for better fire protection, as well as the latest sprinkler systems and alarms. Gonsalves said he believes the Blue Bird warehouse might have been saved had there been more water lines on the roof. For that reason, the co-op plans to install water lines on the roof that are tied to the sprinkler system, with multiple stations in case of fire. "After the fire this summer, I think everybody has to be aware of the poten- tial. The last two summers have really brought that home," he said. "Industry wide, we all need to be sensitive to our surroundings." Collins echoed that assessment. "We've been here since 1920, and it's the first time we've seen this happen," he said. "But that doesn't mean it can't repeat itself." • TJ MULLINAX/GOOD FRUIT GROWER The Blue Bird packing facility in Peshastin, Washington, runs two eight-hour shifts for about four weeks during harvest, says operations manager Bruce Parkins. Following a fire that destroyed a Blue Bird facility in Wenatchee, he expected the three lines in Peshastin to be operating double shifts for several months. The essential resource Win an iPAD! Send your name and address to and enter our drawing. We'll also send you our popular eFlash newsletter with news and essential grower information. Please visit our booths at the Washington Hort Show and the Great Lakes EXPO.

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