Harvest ended a few months ago, which means growers are just starting to feel relief from their “harvest hangover.” The holidays are just over and we're starting the new year, prepping for the next growing season. It's often thought that once harvest finishes and the last bale leaves the farm that we are done for the season, but that's not usually the case. The time right after harvest tends to be just as busy but in a different way.
There are two parts of post-harvest work: pelleting and preparation. During harvest, we create pelleting schedules to ensure that all bales are processed quickly to maintain quality. This year, most of our bales will go to Brewers Supply Group (BSG) just a few miles down the road from us in Wapato, WA.
We make some last-minute contracts to account for production surpluses or shortages, but for the most part, we work on fulfilling current contracts, pelleting, and delivering the 2021 crop.
As for preparation work, it’s a race against the clock for two reasons: irrigation shuts off on a specific date and the weather. The district turned off the irrigation on October 15, meaning we had only a few days to flush soil sediments through the drip tubes in the field. After that, the tubes are blown (a term for purging excess water in the lines), rolled, and put away. We remove self-cleaning filters and valves for maintenance.
The crew will then go through every field with a disc or mower to discard any weeds, which there was a lot of this year. Ridding of these weeds in the fall will help make spring weed sprays more effective. Plus, we prefer the look of a clean field!
The larger post-harvest projects involve repairing trellises. The crew goes through and straightens poles, stubs rotten poles, straightens wires, checks clamps and anchor rods, and squares up any loose ends.
“Between harvest, wind, and rain events, and all the other wear and tear, the trellis gets a workout each year,” says Reid Lundgren, CLS Farms production manager. “It’s important to thoroughly go through each and every pole and acre to make sure it’s structurally sound and is as good as it can before whatever comes at it next year.”
We had a Comet field go down during a rainstorm in early September, which meant the first project post-harvest would be repairing that field. Today, it’s all set and ready to go for next year.
Once most of the hop work is done, the crews will work on our fruit trees to prune, fix trellises, and clean up the orchards.
“We try to get all this stuff done as fast as we can before weather pushes out,” Lundgren says. “... And before we know it, we’ll be digging roots and running it back another year.”