Slim Pickings

<p>Damaged Cherries</p>

Damaged Cherries

Farmer John Verbrugge is busy harvesting this season's apple crop, a crop that is expected to reach near record levels.

However, that wasn't the same for another crop across the way in his orcahrds this year.

His cherry crop was crippled by bouts of hot weather and rain showers over the summer.

"We had a lot of challenges on the packing end and on the growing end, some crops actually didn't get picked because they were split so bad," said Verbrugge.

The Washington State Fruit Commission says growers picked about 14 million boxes, 4 million shy of the predicted amount, and well under the record 23 million picked just last year.

And mother nature is to blame -- with a combination of spring freezes, summertime heat and downpour, many crops were destroyed before they could be picked.

Verbrugge says growing cherries is a gamble many growers take.

"It's like walking into a casino and throwing all your money on one number, you just don't want to do it," said Verbrugge.

Losing a large portion of cherries doesn't always spell bad news for growers.

In fact, some have seen almost double in return from sales, because the cherries they were able to pick were the best of the best, and weren't weeded out by the weather.

"The growers came away with a product people were really clamoring to get ahold of, I was excited to see the demand coming into the Fourth of July," said Washington State Fruit Commission President, B.J. Thurlby, "We didn't even have close to enough product during that time period. And then demand basically held out for the most part throughout the season."

Once Verbrugge wraps up his apple harvest, it's back to square one, replanting and hoping for a fruitful crop next year.

"The previous year, we had a heavy crop, we had nice weather; this year, we had a light crop and bad weather," said Verbrugge, "It changes every year, there's no way to prepare for it. But that's the fun part about farming."

Despite the smaller yield in cherry crop, growers say they have done just fine economically.