Flathead Cherry Harvest to be Lighter, Later This Year

By Beacon Staff

KALISPELL – This year’s Flathead cherry harvest will be later than usual, but that’s good news for growers.

“The later we are, the bigger the price,” said Dale Nelson, president of the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers. “It’s supply and demand. By the end of July, we’ll have the only cherries in North America.”

Frost and cold weather damaged the cherry crop at most of the late-harvest sites in Washington, giving Flathead orchards an advantage.

Nelson said this year’s harvest will be the latest in 15 years.

He expects the earliest orchards at Finley Point to start harvesting around July 25, with the season peaking Aug. 4 to 5. Typically it peaks in late July.

Local cherry growers also are expecting a lighter crop this year — somewhere around 2 million pounds. That’s roughly half of last year’s bumper crop of 4 million pounds.

Nelson said the year following a bumper crop typically is a little light.

“The tree can’t produce a bumper crop every year,” he said.

Flathead orchards also had one cold night in April — during the third stage of bud development — that nipped trees. The result is a slimmer crop but bigger cherries.

“We’ll have nice, big juicy cherries,” Nelson said.

The cooperative’s cherries are shipped to Monson Fruit Co. in Washington for packing, then are distributed and marketed nationally by Domex Inc. of Yakima, Wash. This year, 11 Wal-Mart stores in Montana will feature Flathead cherry displays.