King Fresh Produce LLC is doing its part to help keep California cherry supplies abundant.
“We will probably double the amount of cherries we pack this year,” Keith Wilson, owner of the Dinuba, Calif.-based grower-shipper, said April 6.
“We’ve added acreage and expect a much better yield than last year due to dormancy and chill hours.”
Sieze the opportunity
The additional commercial acreage coming online is part of King Fresh Produce’s long term push for a bigger footprint in the state’s cherry deal, and to give the deal a more southern flavor.
“We needed something in the month of May, and cherries were intriguing,” Wilson said.
“We invested in electronic sizers and put our cherry line in two years ago. We had the hydro cooler already at our facility and felt there was an opportunity.”
“Not many packers in our area had the electronic sizing equipment,” he said. “We’re about the farthest south commercial cherry packer.”
King Fresh also packs in Madera County, but the bulk of cherry volume comes through its Dinuba facility. Most of the cherries are grown in Kern, Tulare and Fresno counties. In the north, the grower-shipper handles some Stockton fruit.
The company anticipated a late April start for harvesting.
“Our early cherries out of California are having their best crop in the last four years,” Wilson said.
Brooks, to start
King Fresh supplies a range of cherry varieties, starting with brooks. Coral and tulare follow, along with such other options as rainiers, sonnet, lapins and some bings.
They’ll add table grapes from California and Mexico in May, pomegranates starting in August, and citrus through the winter, among other crops. But it’s the cherries that kick off the state’s season.
“Cherries are the first tree fruit available out of California,” Wilson said.
“It’s a great opportunity for retailers to get started with California tree fruit.”
King Fresh expected cherry production to start peaking by May 2.
“It’s a very promotable crop in early May for Mother’s Day,” he said.
“Memorial Day should also be a decent promotion period. There will be cherries then out of Stockton and from our area as well.”