BELLINGHAM — The late June record-breaking heat wave in the Pacific Northwest resulted in a significantly smaller raspberry harvest in northwest Washington.
The 2021 harvest numbers show Whatcom County farmers brought around 44.5 million pounds, according to the Washington Red Raspberry Commission.
That’s down 30.2% compared to the 2020 harvest and down 40% compared to the peak year in 2018, the Bellingham Herald reported. The second-lowest total this century was 45.9 million pounds in 2004.
The extreme heat turned many berries to mush. On June 28, temperatures in Lynden reached 106 degrees and it was hotter at berry farms east and north of Lynden.
Late June is typically when raspberry harvest begins. Before the heat wave, 2021’s harvest was looking like 2020’s, according to Henry Bierlink, executive director at the Washington Red Raspberry Commission.
Early picks amid the heat wave became juice-quality grades. Later, some farmers were able to pick berries that could be frozen.
Berry and other farmers with crop damage worked with federal lawmakers to secure some financial relief through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
Whatcom County’s raspberry production represents about 85% of what’s grown in the U.S., according to the Whatcom Conservation District.
Intense heat waves and a historic drought in the American West reflect climate change that is making weather more extreme.