On-farm storage adds value to crop
Few tree fruit growers in the West have their own cold storage, as most deliver their fruit to the packing house during harvest. But on the East Coast, growers use cold storage to add value to their crop.
"It goes back to diversity and maximizing your value," said Charles "Chip" Bailey, a Williamson, New York, orchardist with 150 acres of fresh market and processed apples. Bailey built his own cold storage building in 2000, installing refrigeration equipment in 2004. Another cold storage already existed when he bought the orchard. Between the two buildings, he can store about 4,700 bins of apples.
He also stores fruit at Lake Country Storage, a cooperative of nine growers who own the facility.
Bailey uses the cold storages for both his fresh and processed apples. Processed apples are stored until the processor is ready for them, which is usually from January through March. He holds fresh market apples in his cold storage until loads are put together for the six different companies that pack his fruit. He frequently sends mixed loads with different varieties to his packers.
"Different packers have different requirements for their different markets," Bailey said. By matching the fruit to each packer, he can maximize his crop value.
The cold storages also provide him with flexibility. He can send crop to the market when he's ready and supply his customers with fruit more than just two months of the year. He likens the cold storage to insurance because the rooms prevent his fruit from sitting in the rain as it waits to be loaded.
The buildings serve a dual purpose when they are emptied of fruit. As fruit moves out and refrigeration is turned off, he stores empty fruit bins in the rooms to protect the wooden bins from weather and insects.