Growing Organic Cherries: A Labor of Love

With cherry season just around the corner, we’ve been gearing up for the big harvest. In the spring, we released lady bugs to control pests and sprayed pheromone disrupters for cherry fruit flies; we turned on the wind machines to protect the trees from late frosts; we crossed our fingers that hungry birds and heavy winds would go easy on our orchard.

And while the irresistible sweetness of our organic cherries still lingers on our tongues from last year’s crop, so does the intensity of this one-of-a-kind harvest.

Organic cherry harvest

 

 

Unlike peaches, which also thrive in our high desert climate, cherry trees don’t take a lot of input. Unlike peaches, cherry trees grow old and keep on producing. In fact, our orchard is home to full-sized cherry trees anywhere from 21 to 40 years old, and they’re still producing delectable fruits.

Yet, with the good comes the quirk, and you can certainly call cherry trees a quirky bunch. Sensitive to late frosts and gusts of wind, we must expect an irregular harvest pattern. Some years, tree limbs are nearly breaking off, bursting with big, juicy cherries that pull the branches to the ground; other years, we are grateful for a few dozen boxes full.

So if it weren’t the taste that made us fall in love with cherries, it must have been the charm.

Cherry harvest is a labor of love – and a labor it is. During cherry season, we spend each sunset strolling through the rows, marking each tree with a ribbon for sweetness. The next morning, our crew of 10-12 people starts at sunrise for harvest. With just a few hours before the heat softens the stone fruit, signaling us to stop for the day, our crew members climb ladders with buckets strapped to their shoulders and pick cherries one by one.

Cherry picking is a mindful and meticulous process. Fruit by fruit, we snap off the stem from exactly where it connects to the branch. Because we rely on the wood of the tree for the next year’s harvest, we must be careful not to break the wood.

Mid-day, after the sun has declared a pause in our harvest, we sort through the cherries by hand, checking for quality and kind. We believe in the versatility of good cherries, so we sell everything we harvest, after it’s sorted.

We grow the famous Bing cherry as well as two cross-pollinators, Rainier and Van – all sweet. And before we know it, cherry season has come and gone.

Join us at the farm to enjoy the fruits of our labor and love.

Come by any morning during the week, even when our shop is closed, and take home the bounty. We offer bags by the pound as well as 8-lb and 18-lb boxes, perfect for drying, canning and making preserves so that you can enjoy the sweetness all year long.

 

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