BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — As March drew to a close, grower-shippers in all of California’s four cherry growing regions heaved a sigh of relief.
Some heavy March rains pushed seasonal totals to 150% of the normal range, and some orchards were hit at the height of the bloom, growers said.
Despite the inclement weather, some grower-shippers predicted a second consecutive 11 million carton season.
California cherries are the first of the nation’s domestic stone fruit crops to reach market with Kern County, at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, traditionally leading the way.
Harvesting of Kern County orchards for Wenatchee, Wash.-based Stemilt Growers Inc. was scheduled to begin the first week in May, said Roger Pepperl, marketing director.
“Our California production will have a lot more fruit on the front end,” he said.
Season opening varieties for Stemilt will be brooks, garnets and corals.
At Harold Crawford Co. Inc., Bakersfield, the outlook is for larger volume than in 2010.
“We have great crops and with new acreage coming on, the potential to be bigger than last year,” said Chris Callahan, who works in sales and cherry procurement.
Growers for Crawford were scheduled to begin harvesting royal lees about April 25, he said.
The company plans to begin shipping brooks cherries about May 5 — roughly three days later than usual — with tulares starting to come off the trees about May 12, Callahan said.
Fresno-based TriStone International LLC markets cherries from all four of the state’s growing districts. Harvesting of TriStone’s Kern County cherries also was scheduled for the first week of May, said Michael Jameson, owner.
The trees are showing signs for another big crop, he said in mid-March.
“There were two to three fruit buds per cluster last year, but this year the numbers are three to five buds per cluster,” he said.
“The trees still have to go through drop, but the potential’s there for a very good crop.”
The trees naturally drop some fruit when the fruit set is too heavy, Jameson said.
Grower Direct Marketing LLC, Stockton, also represents growers throughout the San Joaquin Valley. Kern County varieties will include brooks, tulares and corals, said Jim Hanson, managing director.
“If we’re able to offer volumes in late April, they will be very small,” he said.
The Kern County harvest for Hanford-based Flavor Tree Fruit Co. will feature Sequoias, one of the company’s proprietary varieties, said Maurice Cameron, president. Picking was scheduled to begin a day or two before May 1, he said.