A Very Red Rainbow

Visitors to Door County may have been disappointed last weekend as they were forced inside and away from the peninsula’s beaches, harbors, and cherry orchards. The owners of those orchards, however, were overjoyed as the sky that had been clear most of the summer turned dark.

Door County’s cherry growers finally got what they had been hoping for all season, and what they hope will solidify this year’s cherry crop rebound – rain.

“We had absolutely nothing last year,” says Norb Grenchik of the Wisconsin Cherry Growers. “The temperature fluctuation back in January of ‘08 killed a lot of fruit right off the bat…last year there was really no potential for a crop.”

Indeed, growers and pickers alike were frustrated as the cherry crop of 2008 never even reached one million pounds. But last year’s trying season likely contributed to this year’s success, as Dick Weidman of the Door Peninsular Agricultural Research Station explains.

“Normally when you come off a year when there isn’t a crop on the tree, the tree has a tendency to make a lot of flower buds the next year, which is exactly what happened,” Weidman says. Dale Seaquist of Seaquist Orchards in Sister Bay agrees, saying, “At least we’ve got something to work with this year.”

Besides just having more cherries in their orchards this year, growers are able to sell a larger percentage of their cherries, also thanks to last year’s poor crop.

“We’re able to package all our fruit [this year] and it will not be restricted,” Grenchik explains. “If the projected crop is going to be much bigger than what the market can handle, a portion of the crop that is perceived as unmarketable has to be dealt with differently. We are not subject to that regulation this year because we didn’t have a crop last year, because we didn’t meet our average.”

This year’s cherry crop, which is estimated to reach anywhere from six to ten million pounds, should bring in around $8 million for the orchards. The rebound does more than just boost business for growers. Weidman says the resurgence of the cherry crop “enhances tourism, brings people into the area, the two of those together give you a positive factor for what we call agri-tourism.”

Grenchik says a good crop should make more than cherry growers happy.

“It means a lot for the farm markets,” he says. “Blossom time is huge in Door County. Last year there really wasn’t a blossom time.”

A major part of the cherry business in Door County, and one noticeably lacking last year, is the pick-your-own season. The pick-your-own season normally starts in late July in the southern parts of the Door, and works its way up the bay side of the peninsula. Seaquist, Weidman, and Grenchik all think it will last until the middle of August this year.

So for the next few weeks the pick-your-own season returns, and residents and visitors alike will see the roadside signs, the makeshift parking lots, and the empty buckets waiting to be filled. Orchard workers will once again sit behind folding tables, welcoming those who choose to pull over back to a tradition that was very much missed last year. An essential part of Door County has gone back to normal, and it was surely worth the price of a little rain.