Washington State Apples: A Bumper Crop for Exports

The apple industry in Washington remains robust.

Bill Lewis
On Monday, December 9, 2013 - 16:47

The 10 billion apples harvested in Washington state each year are picked the old fashioned way - by hand. And if you put all of those apples side by side, they would circle the earth 29 times.

Apples, which account for $1.8 billion in annual sales, are the highest-value agricultural commodity grown in the state. About 33 percent of Washington apples are exported to more than 60 countries around the world, including leading customers Mexico, Canada, Indonesia, Taiwan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and India.

"Our state has high-yielding orchards, with many that grow along waterways like the Columbia and Snake rivers. The Columbia Basin is some of the best land on the planet for growing high-quality apples," says Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington State Apple Advertising Commission.

The state's apple picking season runs from mid-August into November, with 57,000 workers harvesting the crop. Fryhover says the Apple Commission doesn't do any domestic advertising, focusing solely on exporting Washington apples into more foreign markets.

"Washington farmers these days are mainly growing the most profitable apples, with Red Delicious, Galas, Fujis and Honeycrisps continuing to increase in popularity," he says. "Red Delicious and Galas are our biggest sellers, with 35 million Red Delicious and 30 million Galas sold annually."

One of the many successful individual orchards in Washington is Gold Digger Apples, established in Oroville in 1938. Today, Gold Digger grows apples, pears and cherries. It has 150 full-time employees and 400 seasonal workers.

"We thrive in the desert conditions of eastern Washington, which is an ideal geographic region for growing apples," says Greg Moser, Gold Digger Apples general manager. "That is especially the case every August in eastern Washington when the long days and cool nights are perfect for bringing out the best color and sweetness in Washington apples."


Bill Lewis is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in publications across the United States.