Storm watch speeds up citrus harvest

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Harvest crews have been racing the clock this week - trying to get citrus picked before the next storm comes in.

Workers skillfully cleared trees of heirloom oranges at the Sky Valley ranch in Orange Cove. The last storm halted the harvest. Cecelia Packing Company President David Roth said, "We lost four of five days of picking. Things got a little bit tight. We had to shove off some orders. Lost some orders and it's nice to get back out."

Crews had to wait until the mud dried before they could get back into the orchards. Sand has also been trucked in. Roth explained, "If it rains more we're bringing sand in, dg in so that the forklifts won't sink in the ground."

The orchard located next to a mountain once belonged to the late actor John Ritter. Roth said, "Back then he had somebody make some investments for him but he had been out here a couple of times."

The oranges were immediately sorted, boxed and prepared for shipping. Roth said wet oranges couldn't be picked because workers' hands would leave a mark.

The fruit was bound for stores like Costco, Trader Joe's and overseas markets so the rain can be disruptive. David said, "We did lose about four exports last week because we couldn't pick them on a timely basis."

Growers have welcomed any rain during this drought but they also asked for a few days to dry out between each system.
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