BIGFORK – Flathead Lake cherry growers organized late-season picking sessions this week, as orchard operations got back into full swing after a bumper crop across the Pacific Northwest forced prices down and halted picking for several days.
“I think really everything is going as well as it could with so many cherries in the pipeline,” said Sandy Kuntz, of Kuntz Family Farms just north of Yellow Bay.
Members of the Flathead Cherry Growers Association, along with growers around Montana and in Washington and Oregon, reached a tri-state agreement last week to cease picking until prices evened out after large, co-occurring harvests flooded national and international markets.
The moratorium was lifted earlier this week and cherries were selling at an “OK price,” said Dale Nelson, president of the Flathead Cherry Growers Association.
“Once we get through that, where there’s a lot of fruit in the marketplace, it can change quickly,” Nelson said. Nelson estimated that Washington’s cherry crop was about 85 percent complete, which will make room for Montana’s later crop to be picked up by warehouses.
Meanwhile, growers like Kuntz are relying on local traffic and regional sales to keep the fruit moving.