In a partnership with Pacific Coast Cherry Packers and sales marketer Sage Fruit Company, Cascade Cherry Growers are investing over $4 million into a cherry hydro-cooler and cold storage in Dallesport. They intend to have it operational by the start of harvest this June.
Growers know that the faster you can cool a cherry and deliver it to market, the better the quality. That means better shipping quality with the goal of higher returns back to local growers.
However, the packaging facility operated by Pacific Coast Cherry Packers is 87 miles away in Wapato, Wash. Cherries coming out of the fields in the Mid-Columbia are hot and quickly deteriorate when removed from the tree.
The new state-of-the-art cooling station will put the chill on cherries before the haul to Wapato, keeping them delicious, longer. The 7,800 square foot facility will water cool cherries to 32 degrees Fahrenheit within 5 minutes using a state-of-the-art hydrocooler, said Megan Thompson, president of Cascade, from her office on Fourth Street in The Dalles.
The facility will process tens of thousands of bins of cherries this season as local growers truck in their fruit. With 29-foot vertical walls, the cooling station has capacity for hundreds of bins daily. But the goal is to quickly turnover the inventory to improve cherry freshness.