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Cherry harvest going strong

Despite rumors that no cherries were being picked or shipped, the Finley Point cherry plant is processing about 100,000 pounds of Flathead cherries per day, local Monson Fruit Company representative Brian Campbell said.

Last week, the plant did stop taking lambert cherries for a day or two until the market flushed out the full warehouses in Washington. 

“Buyers heard we have had some showers and rainstorms,” Campbell said, “so they’ve been reluctant to buy lamberts.”

Moisture makes lamberts soft, and traditionally lamberts don’t hold up well to shipping, according to Campbell, adding that lamberts are great cherries for fruit stands.

Cherry growers learned in 2009 that the market is poor for lamberts, and many ended up not picking all their fruit. 

“Now the cherry plant is taking lapins just as fast as they can pick ‘em,” Campbell said, “also skeenas and sweethearts later in the season.”

Monson has been trying to encourage growers to replace some of their lamberts for at least the last 10 years, Campbell said.

Ken Edgington, a member of the Flathead Lake Cherry Growers board of directors, has interplanted his orchard with lapins.

The lambert cherries have a tendency to go soft during transport, he said, although they are great for fruit stands and local sales.

Lapins will weather rainstorms better than some other cherries, too, and consumers want a cherry with a crunch.

“Skeenas, sweethearts, lapins are all big cherries; they taste good and have a good crunch,” he said. 

A rain storm last week worried producers and consumers, but most of the orchards got “blown off fast enough,’ Edgington said.

Blowing off refers to helicopters hovering above an orchard. The motion of their rotors dries the cherry trees and fruit.

Comparing the rain storm to a rain delay at a ball game, Edgington said there is usually a one-to-two-day rain delay to make sure the cherries haven’t split, and then it’s back to business as usual.

Media in the area had negative and misleading information, according to Edgington, and that harms the industry even though roadside markets are selling lots of cherries and the Finley Point cherry plant is processing thousands of pounds of fresh cherries.

“The lapins are just now coming on,” Edgington said. “A week after those, the sweethearts and skeenas will be ready.” 

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