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Cherries: From Orchard to Store

A Queen Anne cherry tree outside of Cherry Republic. A Queen Anne cherry tree outside of Cherry Republic.

Within 25 miles of Cherry Republic’s headquarters in Glen Arbor is the greatest cherry growing region in the world with nearly 2 million cherry trees resting on our beautiful hillsides overlooking Lake Michigan. How do all those cherries get grown and harvested and then made into the 190 scrumptious Cherry Republic products? It takes a dab of luck, a good share of expertise, and lots and lots of hard work.

Before Cherry Republic can do anything, we rely on Mother Nature to do her work. Cherries are very susceptible to frost and each April and early May all of northern Michigan frets in fear of visits by Jack Frost and old man winter. Frost is a major concern for the farmers because freezing temperatures can wipe out an entire crop overnight.

As our orchards survive the cold nights they are rewarded with longer and longer days. The sunny days of May are celebrated with billions of honey bees pollinating the beautiful and fragrant blossoms that blanket the northern Michigan hillsides with beautiful white flowers.

Cherry Orchard in Full Blossom A cherry orchard in full blossom

From late May through mid July, cherry farmers hope for good amounts of rain and sun to plump up and ripen the cherries. Imperceptibly, over many days, the branches begin to bend as they carry the heavier ruby red fruit.

Cherries on the tree Ripe for the plucking! These cherries are perfectly ripe and ready for the harvest.

Then, when the cherries are at their reddest and fullest, the fields become alive with tractors and shakers and trucks and thousands of workers. It is harvest time. It is up to everyone to quickly get the cherries off the trees before a big wind or rain cracks their fragile skin.

Cherry harvest The cherries are harvested by machines that shake the tree causing the ripe fruit to fall

In mid July, the tart cherries are ready to be harvested. Tart cherries are quickly picked and stored in giant tanks of cold water. This keeps them cool, but the water in the tanks also keeps the fragile cherries from bruising.

Cherries in tanks after being harvested Cherries in tanks after being harvested. Each tank holds 1000 pounds of fresh cherries.

The tanks of cherries are brought to the processing plant. In giant assembly lines, they are sorted, washed and pitted.

Then the Cherry Republic magic happens. We take those fresh cherries and bring them to our cherry factories. We have a team of specialized tastemakers and food experts that have a hand in creating long time favorites like Original Cherry Salsa or new product hits like Cherry Summer Sausage.

Cherry Republic products Covered in chocolate, mixed with nuts, served on their own, or added to countless other treats, northern Michigan's tart cherries are the mightiest of fruits.

All these products don’t stay in our warehouse long before they are put into gift boxes and sent all over the world. It takes hundreds of adept hands to make the tens of thousands of gift boxes that will be shipped out, each one with a handwritten card, a sprig of cedar, and unlimited cherry spirit.