By Buck and Nancy Jorgensen

Our family has been growing apples in the Methow Valley for over 50 years. During that time, our Canyon Creek Apples have developed a sizable list of customers on both sides of the Cascades who enjoy farm-to-table, fresh tree-ripened fruit. Historically, we have sold our apples at our roadside stand and grocery stores as well as the Methow Valley Farmers Market.

We take great pride in the quality and taste of our fruit. Many people make a special fall trip into the Methow to purchase our apples and enjoy the region’s spectacular scenery. We enjoy having many local customers as well. The recent article, “Forbidden fruit.” indicated the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) found five orchards that would be in the proposed quarantined area. We suspect there are more smaller orchards, perhaps like ours, whose agricultural labors are not noticeable from the road, but where several acres of quality fruit are under active cultivation.

We no longer take our fruit to the warehouse, as our few acres of ripe apples contain too much sugar for processing and long storage. We do, however, spray for pests as part of being responsible orchardists. Maintaining an orchard such as ours is a labor of love and an example of the peril to small American farmers competing against large ag growers. It is our sincere hope that whatever specific requirements the WSDA imposes on the Methow will take into consideration the viewpoints of all serious growers in the valley, not simply the five they seem to have identified.

Alternate approaches?

We recognize the seriousness of the potential apple maggot infestation to the Methow Valley and to our state’s apple industry. The situation needs to be dealt with using proven effective methods of identification and eradication. Rather than slap a quarantine on such a large area, would it not be more helpful to place more traps over the proposed area in order to locate specifically where the problem area(s) are? How about making a more concerted effort at locating and removing so-called abandoned orchards? Maybe send out notices to all Methow Valley property owners asking for help in locating problem trees on their property or nearby areas? Do some infested fruit trees exist on state or national lands?

Perhaps there are so-called “backyard” growers who would appreciate some assistance from the WSDA in spraying for these nasty little critters. Could well-meaning organic growers be contributing to the situation? Is the WSDA willing to visit and certify fruit from smaller private orchards like ours?

Rather than pulling out all the patient’s teeth, it might be better dentistry to locate the tooth that’s creating the problem. We are not hearing very much about eradicating the pest. The cost of containment to farmers and waste management alike will not be sustainable over the long haul. Hopefully, the WSDA will listen to and implement reasonable and workable suggestions that might arise from this predicament. A quarantine for the Methow Valley is not the only option. It certainly should not be the first. 

Buck and Nancy Jorgensen own Canyon Creek Ranch near Carlton.