Washington Apple Country History
Of all the attendant industries, apple processing would prove to have the largest impact on the increasingly robust agri-business in this region. Prior to 1915, orchardists simply dumped their blemished or deformed apples, called 'cull,' into the Columbia River. In 1916, a Chelan businessman named George F. Miller proposed to the ochardists that he be permitted to purchase these blemished apples in order to sell the cull to various juice processing and fruit canning operations, which were then primarily based in the Puget Sound region. Growers were delighted with this idea, and readily accepted Miller's commissions.
After watching thousands of tons of cull apples leave for Puget Sound, Miller and some of his associates resolved that Wenatchee should also profit from the booming trade. In 1925, the group financed construction for the Wenatchee Packing Corporation, now known as Wenatchee Canning Company. It was the first fruit cannery established in Chelan County. In the 1940s another such operation, Evaporating Company, opened its doors in Chelan. That was followed some years later by the Chelan Packing Company. Chelan Pack, as it was locally called, quickly became the major purchaser of cull apples used for juice processing. The company was sold in the mid-1970s to Tree Top, which ranks today as one of the nation's largest producers of apple juice and other products. Tree Top is also one of this county's largest employers.
Tree Top is a grower-owned cooperative with 2,500 grower-owners in the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The cooperative's corporate headquarters and two of its six processing plants are located in the town of Selah. In addition to Tree Top, Selah is also home to three fresh fruit packing and storage plants - Larson Fruit Co., Matson Fruit Co., and Zirkle Fruit Co., and another major processing plant producing apple juice and other juice products -- Hi-Country Foods. Hi-Country Foods Corporation is the largest privately owned apple processor in the Pacific Northwest. Primarily a private label packer, Hi Country's main product is fresh pressed apple juice.