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Main squeeze

Imperfect cherries turn into tasty juice

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A new partnership between Flathead Cherry Growers Association and Tabletree Enterprises, a juicing company, will utilize culled, damaged fruit that was once just tossed out. 

FLCG President Bruce Johnson is excited about this new venture and can’t wait to see what this deal will do to the cherry business.

 “We have been looking for a way to create a value-added product made here in Montana,” Johnson said. “Our partnership with Tabletree is truly a win-win-win situation.”

FLCG, an agricultural co-op since 1935, grows about two million pounds of cherries each year. Once these cherries are ready to be sold, they are sent to Selah, Washington on trucks to be processed and packaged through Monson Fruit Company. While processed, about 10 to 30 percent of the cherries are pulled for deficiencies, according to Johnson.

Now, those defective cherries will be used to make juice.

 “We have a more effective business now,” Johnson said. Trucks that would have been sent back empty will now be filled with culls. “Once those trucks get back to our warehouse, Tabletree will be able to use our facility to start their process,” he said.

Tabletree Enterprises was founded in 2010 by Gary and Susan Snow, cherry farmers from Creston, British Columbia. They developed unique equipment that produces high-quality fruit juices and culinary sauces from culled fruit. Despite their success, it has not always been easy working in the fruit industry.

 “We have had a lot of losses and struggles working in this business,” Susan Snow said. “That is why we are so excited to be working in Montana with farmers that understand how it goes … we are also excited to bring these growers a solution.”

Not only is Tabletree a problem solver, it is a pretty tasty juice. Its Black Cherry Juice won first place in the Best Pure Juice category at the 2012 World Juice Awards. The next year, Tabletree Apple Juice won second place in the Best New Juice category.

 “I wanted a healthy product,” Susan Snow said. “The ingredients are cherry juice, honey, and cinnamon, and we put it in a glass bottle.”

Although the ingredients are available, the equipment and processing is kept a secret.

“If I told you, I’d have to put you in a hole in the back of our orchard,” Susan Snow said, laughing. “It is just something we worked really hard on.”

After successfully marketing their product in Canada, Tabletree decided to expand its business to Montana. Gary Snow described this new endeavor as a brotherhood.

 “It’s not just about us as growers. We are a small fraternity,” Gary Snow said. “We want to help the growers and all the aspects of the industry.”

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