Cascade Cherry Growers in partnership with Pacific Coast Cherry Packers and sales marketer Sage Fruit Company 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.
The faster you can cool a cherry and deliver it to market, the better the quality – crunchier, harder, tastier, and pricier. That means better shipping quality with the goal of higher returns back to local growers.
But here’s the rub. 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 – say 60-degrees– 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.
VK Powell Construction of Yakima is the general contractor. Last week they used cranes to raise the poured concrete walls into place. They are 18-inches thick with a 7-inch foam core for insulation.
Hood River Sand, Gravel & Ready-Mix provided concrete as the walls were poured on the ground and then later lifted.
The construction has created a dozen jobs and required many subcontractors, said Victor Veliz with VK Powell. He said in addition to his crew, plumbing and electrician work will be needed.