Northern Michigan Cherries: 2012 Fruit Update from Northwest Michigan

Northern Michigan Cherries: First, the bad: this year’s Michigan cherry crop took a big hit. “I wish I had better news. It’s a little bleak out there,” says Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Station and district extension horticulture educator in Traverse City. Second, some not-so-bad: despite our early-season warm-up and subsequent frost that led to significant crop loss—total Michigan tart cherry crop is estimated at 12.5 million pounds, far below 2011’s crop of 157.5 million pounds—Michigan cherries are available locally this summer. Third, some positive: Rothwell sees the devastating blow to the industry (apples, peaches and juice grapes also took a hit) bringing farmers, community leaders and researchers together like never before to figure out ways to possibly prevent such losses moving forward. More from Rothwell:

Our state produces 75 to 80 percent of the nation’s tart cherries. Has this kind of crop loss happened to us before?

1945 was not very good and was similar to this—we saw an early warm up. In 2002, we had almost a total crop loss in tart cherries. I think the difference between 2002 and 2012, in addition to tart cherries, is we’ve lost sweet cherries and the whole state has lost the majority of its peaches and apples—30 to 40 percent of crop of apples. Fruit crops in Michigan, most of them don’t look very good. But blueberries look OK, wine grapes are looking really excellent. But for tart cherries, sweet cherries, apples, peaches and juice grapes—it’s really devastating.

But it’s not all gloom and doom, right?

I think our growers are really paying attention to the health of their trees this year and concentrating on keeping trees healthy for 2013. We have the potential to set a really good crop next year since this is how the cycles go, and I think that’s what growers are remaining optimistic about. We’re also trying to figure it all out as a community. We’ve been fortunate to have Senator Debbie Stabenow here and Senator Carl Levin here [in June] and these are people who are looking at how can they help farmers and growers. Bob Sutherland [of Cherry Republic] has been very supportive. There’s a real community spirit when you have a crop loss like this.

What exactly can help the situation?

We’re thinking about what we call risk- management tools. Is it a wind machine [to help circulate the cold air that can settle in lowest part of an orchard], crop insurance, irrigation strategies? Right now tart cherry growers don’t have a way to recoup losses—there’s no crop insurance for them. Lawmakers like Senator Stabenow, who is a really strong proponent of specialty crops, are drafting language for the 2012 Farm Bill.

And we can look forward to enjoying sweet cherries this summer …

Yes, there’s still at least a quarter of a crop of sweet cherries.

This article was first featured in August 2012 Traverse, Northern Michigan's Magazine. Click here to order your copy!

Article Comments

  • PowerOfChoice

    Each entity should have available proper insurance!!! We have vehicle insurance, homeowner insurance, health insurance; however, some in the agriculture industry are not provided with proper “business” insurance?

    With regards to legislative bills NO EXTENSIONS for items except for our soldier armed forces. Everything else as it comes up for renewal needs to be recycled, separated out, and the trash eliminated. The Farm Bill should not contain items for welfare, energy, broadband, housing, etc. and everything should stand on its own in any future bills to better control costs and eliminate the special interests and self-serving items being added. Farmers and others in agriculture business should not have their needs controlled by Food Stamps or other items and battles regarding help for a separate entity.

    Both Senate and Congressional Farm Bills need to have trash removed. The Senate Bill in this section: SEC. 12211. DEFINITION OF RURAL AREA FOR PURPOSES OF THE HOUSING ACT OF 1949 would increase the pool of recipients and also increased rural community population requirement to 35,000. This population level would be a small City not a true rural community. Also, changing the Census date to 2020 insures those who have already received fair share of benefits over past years and now self-sufficient to continue receiving such benefits. This means less money available to true rural area communities, because others would continue receiving more after they are now self-sufficient and no longer rural. The purpose of rural programs is to help very small struggling communities grow and become self-sufficient, not to become a welfare system for self-sufficient communities who have already received past benefits wanting more.

    It is Federal Government position to which our legislators ran for and were elected. Participation on the “Federal” level means you are to review and enact legislation based on whether it is best for our OVERALL country and should not matter whether it is “rural” or “urban”. Self-serving considerations as to whether you are from a rural area or urban area is biased and why our country has problems. If legislators cannot stop being biased or self-serving and start making the hard decisions, then they need to resign and let someone who is willing to step up to the plate take their place and make the hard decisions. Our country can no longer afford anything less!!!

  • kelsey

    hey this sounds great. Can I please have 200 tickets. This is where I am taking my great big group of class mates that I had in seventh grade. LOL