After a wet, cool spring, Richland ‘U-pick’ is ready for visitors

RICHLAND, Wash. — Things are abuzz at Ray French Orchard in Richland.

They’re preparing for the beginning of their u-pick cherry season.

“The cherries are dessert,” Sandra French, wife of Robin French, said.

This year’s season hasn’t come without challenge, if the 35 acres of fruit trees could talk, they’d tell you about the out-of-the ordinary spring weather.

“Robin said he’s never seen a year like this,” Sandra said.

The Ray French Orchard started 60 years ago; Robin is one of his sons.

Sandra French helps run the acres of cherry, peach, nectarine, apple and other fruiting trees.

“You don’t have control on the weather. You carefully watch, oh the winds are calm and it’s not raining, I can get something done,” Sandra said they had to carefully watch the ever-changing weather in Richland.

There was the rain, the late spring frost and snow in April, which brought more water to sensitive cherries.

“It goes on hour after hour there’s never a break; they’ll start getting more and more sensitive they can’t soak the water up it can’t be absorbed and the water sits there and the cherry splits if it hangs around too long,” she said.

Split cherries don’t taste differently, but they are more susceptible to mold.

More water has also caused more weeds to grow throughout the orchard, now causing a fire hazard that the Ray French team has to manage.

Sandra said even after all these years, they just keep going.

“Try not to worry, for one, trust God he’s the one in ultimate charge, but, you learn to roll with the punches as farmers,” Sandra said.

Usually, cherry u-pick season starts in mid-June, but they had to wait for the cherries to ripen.

“What we have is really good. Two biters!” Sandra laughed.

She said they’re excited for the fields to be filled with families once again, as the summer heat returns and the fruit trees ripen.

“We just love to see the kids and the families just the interaction and just, enjoy it,” she said.

Ray French Orchard is open 8:30 AM to 5 PM, Tuesday through Saturday, starting June 21st. They’re located at 921 Harvest Lane PR NE in Richland. This season, they’ll offer Bing, Rainier and Benton Cherries. You can check their Facebook for updates on other fruit throughout the season.

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