Flathead Lake cherry harvest going faster than usual

2013-07-26T06:30:00Z 2013-07-29T23:55:06Z Flathead Lake cherry harvest going faster than usualBy Alice Miller Missoulian The Billings Gazette
July 26, 2013 6:30 am  • 

MISSOULA — This year’s harvest of cherries from Flathead Lake orchards hit its peak Thursday and Friday and could be finished early next week.

Such a condensed timeframe for the harvest is unusual, said Brian Campbell, field representative for Monson Fruit Co.

There won’t be lag time between when the lambert and lapin cherries are picked, he said, adding the two varieties ripened at the same time this year instead of slightly apart.

“It came on fast and furious,” said Campbell, who helps orchestrate the harvest.

Since the harvest started on Monday, more than 750,000 pounds of cherries have been plucked from Flathead Lake Cherry Growers cooperative orchard trees, making for a quick harvest.

Rain hasn’t caused crop issues, but hot temperatures are adding to the urgency to get ripe fruit off trees before it spoils. Only 5 percent of the cherries harvested so far have been discarded due to various defects.

While cherries are flowing now, the amount of incoming Flathead cherries is expected to slow to a trickle by early next week. By the end of harvest, an expected 1.5 million pounds of cherries will have been picked, Campbell said.

That number’s slightly down from the average annual harvest of 2 million pounds. An April freeze that stunted blossoms and acreage being replanted with different varieties impacted crop numbers, he said.

Most of the fruit is sent to Yakima, Wash., where it is packaged for sale around the world.

So far, prices have been favorable, Campbell said.

Lapin cherries sold for between $28 and $42 per 18-pound carton out of Yakima on Wednesday, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s online market information.

“The market is really good,” Campbell said.

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