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Linn County fruit orchard copes with scorching temperatures

Fruit is suffering in the heat at local orchards, July 15, 2018. (SBG)

HARRISBURG, Ore. -- On one of the hottest days of the summer so far, the owner of a Linn County orchard says the fruit is taking the heat.

We visited one of the biggest orchards Sunday to see how the crops are holding up and found that area farmers just aren't getting a break.

Last year, they had to deal with the extreme fire season. This year, it’s high temperatures early in the summer.

It has them rushing to get the fruit off the trees and into people's mouths before it goes to waste.

It's cherry season at Detering Orchards, and "we've got a lot of fruit in the field right now,” owner Stephen Demergasso says. “Really high-quality stuff; but with this heat it's only going to last another 3-4 days before it's too soft to pick."

Usually, temperatures wouldn't be this hot quite yet, Demergasso says.

"It causes everything to ripen fast. The fruit softens up, it gets really sweet, it sugars up fast…so if you like sweet fruit now's the time to come out."

At Detering, you don't just buy the fruit; you can pick it too.

"’U-Pick’ is the appeal of our farm. For customers, it's instinctual to go out in the field and pick the crops.”

So, more fruit is ready to pick but less people are out to pick it.

"It's very hot for the pickers,” he says. “With the cooler temperatures, more people come out."

That's not to say they're not getting a fair number of customers.

"Every day we do 500-1,000 pounds of fruit, so people are out here picking a lot of fruit."

They're finding theie own ways to brave the heat and “sweating a lot,” says customer Andrew Briggs, “that's basically how I deal with that."

Briggs expects it to be hot; just not this hot.

"I don't think it's ever been this hot,” he says, “but it's usually pretty hot when you're out picking cherries."

With just a few more days of U-Pick, "before the heat just kind of wipes them out," Demergasso is hoping a lot more cherries get picked.

But he says the heat's not all bad: "It gets the crops riper, so stuff that we really need to ripen up--the peaches--it's really helping to get them sugared and ready to go."

Cherries are ripe for the picking, but the clock is running out.

And if you’re wondering what happens to all the unpicked cherries, Demergasso says they make a tasty treat for the birds.

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