Organic cherry supplies will be in a demand exceed situation for the early part of the summer, as California’s organic cherry growing districts, spread out across the San Joaquin Valley and nearby Salinas Valley, were hit with rain in mid-May, effectively curtailing the state’s minimal amount of organic cherry production. The Pacific Northwest’s cherry crop is expected to get underway in early June, with organic cherry volume expected to arrive prior to the Fourth of July holiday period, as more growers enter the mix.
Speaking of the California crop, Michael Jameson of Morada Produce Co., Linden, CA, said growers were still assessing the damage by the rain over the previous weekend. This was a good season for cherries as California’s crop was expected to reach close to six million cartons, with about half of the production picked and sold by mid-May. “Hopefully, there will be minimal damage,” Jameson said.
He added that organic cherries only represent about 1 percent of the California production. “We have a very limited supply of organics,” he said. “They are very hard to grow here because of the spotted wing drosophila,” a pest that is especially harmful to cherries.
A significant portion of the organic cherries in the state are grown by Frog Hollow Farms in Brentwood, CA, and that mostly direct-to-consumer supplier had a “Sold Out” notice on its web site under the “Organic Cherry” heading.
Frog Hollow Farm sold out cherries
Next up is the organic cherry crop from the Pacific Northwest with production stretching from northern Oregon to northern Washington. While that area has a much more robust organic cherry crop than California, Brianna Shales of Stemilt, headquartered in Wenatchee, WA, said production is still limited. “Organic cherries make up a small percentage of the overall Northwest cherry crop, due to the fact that they are difficult to grow,” Shales said. “Stemilt is a leader in organic cherries from Washington because we have orchard sites that have the right conditions for organic farming.”
Brianna Shales, Stemilt
This year, the Northwest cherry crop is expected to be down in volume by about 15 percent compared to last year. Shales said that means the cherry fruit sizing should be large with excellent quality.
“On the organic side, Stemilt will start with organics in June, with peak harvest and shipping time running in late June to about July 10th at this time. Weather can also move those times up or back a few days,” she said.
Though cherries are not typically sold at retail by variety, Shales noted that Stemilt’ s top organic cherry is the Organic Skeena, a dark-sweet variety. “They are grown primarily by fourth generation cherry grower Kyle Mathison on his Stemilt Hill orchards near Wenatchee, WA, and packed under our Artisan Organics brand.”
Stemilt's website promoting cherries
Stemilt will have a variety of pack types for organic cherries this year, including the new top seal pack. “Top seal uses an average of 20 percent less plastic and has a resealable film that makes it a great grab-and-go pack for consumers,” Shales said.
New to the Northwest organic cherry deal this year is Sage Fruit Company, Yakima, WA. Chuck Sinks, president/sales & marketing, told OPN: “Most likely we will have our first fruit the first week of June. It will increase during that week and by June 10 we should have ample volume.”
Chuck Sinks, president/sales & marketing, Sage Fruit
He noted that the ample volume refers to the conventional production. While the company is expecting to have a good organic crop for its first season in that sector, he did note that organic cherries are typically in very strong demand that supply has a difficult time keeping up with… and that most likely will be true this year as well.
Sage cherry crop
Sinks said the weather will continue to play an ever-important role in the timing of the crop. "We thought we would have cherries by the last week of May, but it has been cold and that has delayed the crop.”
He added that there has been some rain but no damaging rain as of May 20. Cherries are especially susceptible to damage from rain once they hit that ripe stage. If all goes well, Sinks said Sage Fruit will have organic cherries until the end of July.