In this Oct. 21, 2011, file photo Margarito Calderon picks apples at an orchard in Tieton, Washington.

In this Oct. 21, 2011, file photo Margarito Calderon picks apples at an orchard in Tieton, Washington.

Shannon Dininny/AP

Concord grapes, part of his family’s farm for 75 years, grow on one side of his driveway, but on the other they’ve been replaced with a year-old planting of the new state apple, Cosmic Crisp, which Frank Lyall sees as an investment in the future.

“The Concords go to Welch’s. They’re hardly a high-value crop anymore. People are taking them out,” says Lyall, 60, who farms in the Lower Yakima Valley, where in 1915 his great-grandfather began with prunes, hay and cattle.

There was a time when the Lyalls’ operation, which now includes 450 acres near Grandview and Mattawa, would have been considered large. Today, it’s small, and like so many other small growers in Central Washington, Lyall looks at the mounting pressures that have knocked some of them out of business and wonders how long they will survive.

There’s the shortage of labor and its increasing cost. The cost of mechanization. The growth of government regulations. Then there’s the cost of replanting with new apple varieties, usually around $30,000 per acre. Combined, they make the viability of small-scale tree fruit farms daunting.

Read the whole story at the Capital Press.