Behind the Scenes in the Orchard: The Art and Science of Apple Thinning

Behind the Scenes in the Orchard: The Art and Science of Apple Thinning

Hello, friends and followers of the farm!

Today, I’d like to take you on a journey into our orchards, where our team has been diligently working on an important but often overlooked task – apple thinning.

As a family-run farm, our mission is to connect families to farming and share the love, sweat, and occasional tears that go into bringing our produce from the field to your table. This week, we turn our spotlight onto the labor-intensive, yet vital activity of apple thinning.

But first, what exactly is apple thinning?

Apple thinning is the process of manually removing a portion of the young fruit from our trees during the early stages of growth. This might seem counterintuitive – why would we want to reduce our apple yield?

Here’s where the magic happens. By thinning our apple trees, we allow the remaining apples to receive more nutrients, water, and sunlight. The result? Larger, healthier, and tastier apples.

You see, apple trees are incredibly generous. Left to their own devices, they will try to produce as much fruit as they can. But the tree’s resources are finite, and an overabundance of fruit can lead to small, substandard apples.

That’s where we step in and help Mother Nature along. By judiciously thinning the trees, we ensure that the remaining apples have the space to grow to their full potential. This is crucial because the modern consumer, browsing the grocery store aisles, naturally gravitates towards larger apples.

But it’s not just about the size. The thinning process also leads to better color and flavor, as more resources can go into each remaining apple, enhancing their overall quality. Thinning also ensures that our trees aren’t overburdened, which helps maintain their health and longevity.

So, what does this process look like in practice?

Before I describe the hand thinning practice – it’s also important to mention the strategy leading up to it. The first time we manage crop load is when we prune. Shaping the trees is both art and science as we remove branches before the trees wake up. The second step is when we apply lime sulfur (an organic application) to make some of the apples fall off on their own. Which then brings us to the dance in the orchard of hand thinning.

In the heart of our orchard, amidst the rows of robust apple trees, a ballet of sorts unfolds each day during the thinning season. Our skilled farm workers, armed with a profound understanding of apple trees and a whole lot of patience, make their way through the orchard with ladders and quick hands.

That’s right, thinning is done by hand – it’s a meticulous and time-consuming job. As you ascend the ladder and reach into the leafy branches, you find clusters of small apples, each varying in size but about the size of a ping pong ball or smaller. The task is to gently remove the excess apples, leaving just one or two of the largest and healthiest in each cluster.

The physical demands of apple thinning are not to be underestimated. The work involves constantly moving and adjusting heavy ladders on uneven terrain. It requires careful balance and a head for heights, as workers often find themselves reaching into the uppermost branches of our trees.

Despite the intensity of the work, there’s a sense of tranquility to be found in the apple thinning process. There’s a meditative quality to the repetitive motion, the mindful decisions, and the connection to the trees. The ladder work, while physically demanding, offers its own rewards. From those higher rungs, you get a unique perspective on the orchard. Looking out over the sea of green, under the open sky, you’re reminded of the grandeur of nature and our role in working alongside it.

We hope this gives you a glimpse into what goes on behind the scenes at our orchard. Every step we take is with the aim of providing your family with the highest quality produce and showing you where your food comes from.

Thank you for joining us on this journey. We appreciate you!

Have a great weekend!

– Chad

Logo Chelan Valley Farms in Manson WA


  1. Love that I always learn something when reading this blog. As a Manson transplant I thoroughly enjoy learning about farming and all the insight into orchards. Thank you very much.

  2. Simply fascinating! I’ve learned so much from you blogs! We cannot wait for your little beekeepers HONEY line comes out!

    1. We’re really excited about it. Thinking we’ll have a bee ceremony in September.

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