In the fall, Washington State’s apple country is alive with the crisp, wonderful scent of the harvest. But despite living here since I was seven years old, apple farming was never something I’d thought much about until recently.
I was raised surrounded by orchards, and I still see them everywhere I go; I pass them on my way to take my three children to school, then to work and back home. As a child, my backyard was filled with orchards until they were replaced with housing when I was about ten.
Here in Yakima, one of the largest apple-growing regions in the U.S., I’m reminded that it’s harvest season when the semis start arriving to pick up all the fruit. They come and go each day, loading up with apples from the many farms here, which makes traffic along many of the single-lane country roads significantly slower. We may grumble a bit about the slow traffic, but at the end of the day, we all know how important the apple business is here.
During apple season, locals will make pies, moonshine, cider, crisps and a whole lot more. And several family-run markets and roadside storefronts offer customers the opportunity to test their skills at cider making, peeling apples, and making pie filling. My best friend and I made homemade apple pie filling two years ago for the first time – I can’t say we made the best filling (I don’t bake or cook) but it was tasty!
And if you haven’t tried it, I suggest eating freshly sliced apples with a hint of salt. The sweet and salty combination is a favorite of mine.
The thing I love most about apple season is the smell of sweet crispness that hangs in the air as I walk through the orchards. The crunching sound of the branches and grass as I make my way between the rows of trees is so peaceful. When I walk through orchards, especially right before harvest, I have this feeling of being deep in the woods, protected from the outside world.
No matter the season, I always find the orchards so beautiful. From the changing colors in the fall to the snow-covered branches in the winter to the blooms in the spring – I love it all.
My cousin from Los Angeles asked me recently about the “orchard business” here and if I knew much about the people who grow the fruit. Washington grows more apples than any other state, so you’d think I know something about the industry. To be honest, I never really looked much into it, even though many of my high-school friends have gone on to work for several of the companies.
To get familiar with the apple industry in Yakima, I visited Borton Fruit, which has been operating in Yakima, WA for over 100 years. The family-owned company also grows pears and cherries. I live just a few streets away from their packing house so it was about time I stopped in to say hello.
Before the tour, I thought of Borton as just another fruit grower and distributor, but after touring the orchards and learning about the process, I gained a much deeper understanding of what the people who work there actually do. It was amazing to see the different processes that go on in the company, from picking the apples to processing them at their packing house and then transporting them all over the country and around the world.
Sky Johnson, a Borton Fruit employee and someone I went to high school with, gave my friend Emily and me a tour of the company’s facilities. It was fun to listen to him explain everything he knows about the apple process; he really knows his stuff.
Below are some pictures from our time at Borton Fruit, along with some facts about the apple industry that I found most fascinating. Learning more about my “neighbors” was so interesting for this country girl. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into Yakima’s apple country as well!