Cherry farmer on rain: 'Heartbreak and gloom'

Cherry farmer on rain: 'Heartbreak and gloom'
YAKIMA VALLEY, Wash. -- There's not a lot of cheering on local cherry farms these days. Rain this time of year can be a disaster for them. Growers desperately try to save what they can.

Cherry farmer John Thompson says waking up to cracked cherries is like watching money go down the drain.

"Heartbreak and gloom," he said.

After three days of rain, he says a quarter of his cherries are ruined.

Farmers walk a fine line by using wind machines to dry the fruit. But, they could damage the cherries if used too much.

Thompson's not the only cherry farmer having problems. The Washington State Fruit Commission told me calls about cherry damage are coming in from all over the Yakima Valley. But, it's too soon to know whether it will mean a widespread shortage in this year's harvest. A shortage could drive up prices.

"Cherries could be higher and the farmer could be getting more dollars for the product, but he's going to have less product to sell," Thompson said.

It also means there isn't as much work for pickers. Thompson has had to send them home. He worries he might not have them when he needs them if they find work on other farms.

"It's getting tighter and tighter all the time," he said. "It's getting harder."

It will take 24 hours after the rain stops to get an accurate damage assessment. However, the fruit commission says this damaging rain is the latest seen around here in at least five years.

Local farms still plan to start U-Pick events in July. The Washington State Fruit Commission says this year's picking started almost two weeks earlier than usual to try to avoid this damage.