U-pick fruit ready on Sauvie Island
U-pick season is in full swing on Sauvie Island.
At Columbia Farms, blueberries and blackberries will be available for the final week of the farm's season, ending Aug. 14.
"I just finished checking everything; blueberries look great," operations manager Megan Hallstone said Monday morning. "Blueberries are pretty hearty anyway. Like last year, (after) the heat wave, they were still fine."
The slow start to spring, with low temperatures and high precipitation, set the farm's schedule back. The farm opened for picking two weeks later than usual and pushed back the closing date by two weeks.
The heat wave this summer didn't have the same consequences as the 2021 heat wave, at least for the berries Columbia Farms produces, Hallstone said.
Last year, the record-breaking heat wave came in late June, peaking at 116 degrees in Portland. This year, the heat wave didn't come until late July and peaked at just above 100 degrees — though the Portland region broke its record for most consecutive days with a high above 95 degrees.
The 2021 heat wave came right when raspberries, marionberries and boysenberries were just getting going. "All those were just starting and so it scorched them. Whereas this year, all of those berries were just ending anyway," Hallstone said. The marionberries "surprisingly look really good," Hallstone said Monday.
Columbia Farms is open Friday, Aug. 5 and Saturday, Aug. 6 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 7 from 9 a.m. to noon.
For the final week, Columbia Farm is open for u-pick just on Friday, Aug. 12 through Sunday, Aug. 14, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — plus a two-hour "twilight picking" session from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 9.
The farm started the evening picking sessions this year.
"It's a nice opportunity for people to come out during the week," if they work weekends or work during the weekdays but want to avoid the busy weekend days, Hallstone said.
"It's fun to experience a farm during twilight. People get to stay here for the sunset, it's a little bit cooler in the evening, and we usually get a breeze in the evening," Hallstone said.
Columbia Farm, 21024 N.W. Gillihan Road, can be reached at 503-621-3909. The daily u-pick availability is posted on the farm's website.
At Sauvie Island Farms, age caught up with the red raspberry plants. "Our 18 year old plants are stressed, so there are not a lot of raspberries this year," the farm wrote in a blog post. "Our raspberry fields are very old to the point that we removed a good share of them and attempted to renovate the rest." The plant-renovations meant the raspberry bushes had to focus energy on growing fresh canes, or branches.
For some stone fruit sellers, the spring weather has had more consequences for production.
Ralph Locke, owner of GM Farm, said the cold spring meant that the peach trees had far fewer blooms than in typical years.
The trees usually get more blossoms than they can handle, so they're thinned out to let the trees focus on producing quality peaches, Locke said. This season, there were far fewer blooms.
"We're short on everything," Locke said. For peaches, the farm will have between half and two-thirds of its normal harvest, Locke said.
Vegetables like tomatoes and peppers got into the ground a month late because of the cold spring weather, so those aren't expected until late summer.
Douglas Farm, which also grows plenty of peaches, plus other fruits and vegetables, said in a late July update that 2022 has been "a crazy year for farming, with the wet spring, April snow/ice and dismal start to summer. All the crops are doing their best to catch up."
GM Farm normally has prunes, but the cold, icy weather stressed the blossoms and deterred bees from pollinating the flowers.
"We don't have any pears, we don't have any apples to speak of, (but) the peaches are going to be okay," Locke said. Though the quantity of peaches is down, the size and quality is strong, Locke said.
Locke said the July heat wave wasn't a major concern.
"It's been warm, but I don't think it's been excessive," he said.
Last year's heat wave brought unrelenting high temperatures, but the temperatures lately are only particularly high for a few hours each day, which is manageable, Locke said.
Though the season is having a slow start, with the vegetables still far behind schedule, "it's going to be good in the long run."
"We're getting a lot of phone calls. … We're going to have an excellent turnout."
GM Farm is located at 12954 N.W. Howell Park Road and can be reached by calling 503-505-2002.
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