Mt. Defiance facility fills a fruit storage need

ODELL — Mt. Defiance Cold Storage is the new kid on the fruit block.

Dick Fox of Fox Orchards built the new fruit facility, on Stadelman Drive, this spring and summer, in time to take in the July cherry crop.

Mount Defiance is the tallest point in the west hills of the Hood River Valley. It looks out over Odell and its surrounding orchards — and across to the larger fruit storage companies concentrated in Odell: Stadelman Fruit, Duckwall-Pooley and Diamond Fruit.

Box of Facts

Company: Mt. Defiance Cold Storage

Location: 3315 Stadelman Drive, Odell

Contractor: Sam Griffin Construction, Prineville

What happens there? Storage of fruit from Fox Orchards and other local fruit growers

Size: 30,000 square feet

What’s Controlled Atmospher (CA) all about? Controlled Atmosphere reduces oxygen in the room and that slows the ripening process, while also filtering out carbon dioxide coming off pears, “which aids in calming the ripening process,” Fox said. Pears are kept in CA through March or April.

Mt. Defiance is smaller than its neighbors, but it’s already full.

From August through early October, the 30,000-square-foot facility has quickly filled with apples and pears.

Mt. Defiance is operated by Fox’s son, Randy, as a separate company to the family orchard operation. It stores fruit from Fox orchards and neighboring farms.

The facility holds 2,000 bins in common storage, and has four 1,000-bin controlled atmosphere (CA) rooms.

The CA rooms were completed just in time for the influx of pears earlier this month

“We had need of more storage,” Randy Fox said. Fox Orchards grows fruit in the Odell and Pine Grove areas. “We were seeing there wasn’t enough space for all the fruit coming in, and this crop was especially big. We were proven right that there is the need.

“We will be full this year, very full,” mostly with Anjou and Bosc pears.

Upstairs at Mt. Defiance is a kitchen for doing worm samples and testing interior fruit pressures.

“You don’t want to ship when (cherries) are too soft, so if it’s being shipped to Hong Kong, you have to have a certain pressure,” Fox explained. (For local sale) “they can be at a more relaxed pressure, and we’ll have a machine in here to test it.”

A prominent feature at Mt. Defiance is the cherry hydro cooler, located just under the loading dock awning. It has a 1,000-gallon water tank that pumps to cool down and clean the cherries. Bins pass through the cooler in 90 seconds.

“It takes heat out of the cherries,” Fox explained. “In the dead of summer, cherries come in at 90-100 degrees, and we want to cool them off to preserve them. The first thing is to take the field heat out. The machine cools them off 20-30 degrees, and we cool them off in the rooms even further.

“If they stay too hot for too long they turn to mush and it doesn’t take very long for them to do it.”

The fruit cools faster in the water than it does in the room so it’s an energy saver; 90 seconds in the process is worth 2-3 hours in one of the rooms.

Fox said the hydro cooler also hydrates the stems, keeping them greener longer, which helps preserve the fruit. Fox said Mt. Defiance is also experimenting with cleaning and cooling pears in the machine.

Another energy-saving feature is the use of variable fan speeds in the CA chambers.

“Depending on temperature, if it’s at temperature and staying at temp for awhile, it will calm the fan down so it uses less and less energy; the Bonneville Power Administration is checking it out so we can get a rebate for using this system,” Fox said. “Programs like this encourage industrial users to become more energy-efficient.”

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