October 2022 - 4
Michigan tart cherries: A case
study in climate change?
One of our goals at the Fruit Growers News, and at sister publication
Vegetable Growers News, is one we all embrace: learning how farmers are
maintaining their operations - in many cases a multi-generational family
legacy - rising above the hurdles in their path, and allowing us to inform
others how they do it.
For example, see our cover story on
California apple grower Randy Rajkovich's
quest to produce a truly red apple despite
higher temperatures that prevent traditional
varieties from reaching that color without
shade cloth and other expensive measures.
His solution can be traced to Italy, the
birthplace of Modì, a variety that has found a
foothold in the California market.
That success has been achieved through
the efforts of another California company,
JJB Family Farms, which holds the North
American rights to the Modì.
Sometimes, however, a solution is not so
simple. Certainly, the multi-year drought facing production areas in the
Western U.S. and elsewhere, and its continued effects on agriculture, is
not within our ability to " solve " in a few years - and that's just one of the
many troubles being exacerbated by climate change. We're just beginning
to see some of the effects of climate change, or at least naming it as a
cause of weather anomalies that are becoming more standard, from rising
temperatures to milder winters.
In turn, that creates a more welcoming environment for massive
wildfires, pests and plant diseases.
Farmers assume risks in their profession, and losing a crop because of
the weather has always been a possibility. Michigan tart cherry growers,
however, are seeing this happen again and again, a new trend that
suggests it's not just random weather events threatening their industry.
A new documentary from MLive.com details repeated crop failures
in the Michigan tart cherry industry. " Rotten Times for Tart Cherries: Is
Michigan's Most Famous Crop in Jeopardy? " (https://tinyurl.com/Michtart-cherry)
is a 10-minute video that underscores the challenges facing
tart cherry growers in a state known for its production of the fruit that is
not sweet enough to eat fresh, but is prized for its use in pies, juices, as a
dried fruit snack and in numerous other processed fruit products.
MLive reports that Michigan's tart cherry crop failed or produced
significantly smaller volumes in 2002, 2012, 2020 and 2021.
Growers and others interviewed for the video point to some of the
challenges they face year after year, most of them not exclusive to tart
* Weather, from frost to hail and rain;
* Rising imports;
* Insects and diseases; and
* Labor shortages (plus higher wages and worker housing
complications from the H-2A visa program).
Nikki Rothwell, Michigan State University Extension specialist at the
Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center, has been there for
three of those devastating crop years. She said mild winters, followed by
early springs that prematurely cause blooms, leave trees susceptible to
When the 2022 crop came on with full production, another cruelty
awaited some growers, according to the MLive report: Processors that used
to take the fragile tart cherries had switched their equipment to handle
other fruit, or had shut down completely after two years of dormancy.
For a fruit that starts to degrade a day after harvest, that gave some
growers no choice but to leave the fruit on the trees, feeding birds instead
But again, farmers are finding a solution, according to the video, which
highlights Shoreline Fruit, a cooperative that also processes the fruit grown
by its grower-members.
Others are branching out into other crops to provide a shock absorber
during low-production years, or branching into agrotourism and you-pick
Those solutions aren't a remedy to climate change, of course, but they
show the determined nature of growers to find solutions, and that is one
of the requirements to lead us to answers in the future.
Dozens of Congressional leaders ask for
action on spotted lanternfly
More than 40 members of Congress
are calling on the U.S. Department of
Agriculture to take " immediate steps " to
eradicate the spread of spotted lanternfly
(SLF) - which was recently discovered for the
first time in Michigan.
Michigan blueberry delegation thanks
Representatives from the Michigan
blueberry industry recently met with U.S.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, who
sponsored in Congress the resolution
designating July as National Blueberry
Produce industry celebrates Tom Stenzel's
More than 150 fresh produce industry and
association leaders met for a dinner at the
International Spy Museum in Washington,
D.C., to celebrate Tom Stenzel's three
decades of service to the industry.
WATCH. READ. SHARE
UF's Mike Gutter to lead Virginia Cooperative
Mike Gutter, who has an extensive
track record of developing and funding
partnerships and programs that benefit
local communities, has been named the
director of Virginia Cooperative Extension
and an associate dean of the Virginia Tech
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of October 2022
October 2022 - 1
October 2022 - 2
October 2022 - 3
October 2022 - 4
October 2022 - 5
October 2022 - 6
October 2022 - 7
October 2022 - 8
October 2022 - 9
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October 2022 - 1A
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