Janice Dearing of Northport had been waiting. She stopped into the Coldwell farm market, and found sweet cherries selling for $4.50 a quart.
“We were surprised because we had heard they were selling for $5 to $8 a quarter,” said Dearing, who was fruit shopping with her daughter Fay.
Although the price was well above that paid most years, the Dearings are not about to skip a cherry season. “I may not eat as many, but I’m still going to have some,” said Fay.
On the hillside above the farm market at the corner of Eagle Highway and Alpers Road, the Coldwell family — some nine members, including “the boss” 22-month-old Ruby Popp — was reflecting on the harvest as their last truckload of sweets left the farm for the Leelanau Fruit Company. Sweet cherries shaken from trees will be sold on the commodity market; a few hand-picked cherries are placed in quarts for sale on their own farm.”
“We may run out this week,” John Coldwell said. “We picked some for the locals, but that’s about it.”
A series of seasonal frosts decimated cherry production in Leelanau County and across the state after buds started nd developed into blooms a month earlier than normal.
The Coldwells had no tart cherries to harvest — “we don’t know anybody who shook tarts,” said John — and only a small percentage of their normal sweet cherry production.
“Maybe 10 percent,” said Carol Coldwell, who explained that during a normal year between 100,000 and 130,000 pounds of sweet cherries would come from their 30 acres. “Some orchards would have some; some won’t have any.”
Added John, “The tarts are a waste of time.” The Coldwells have six acres planted in tarts. Cherry harvest on the Coldwell farm was completed in four days; it normally takes two weeks.
The Coldwells, who have both retired from jobs with the state of Michigan, grow and sell several crops on their farm. Strawberry season is over. Some varieties of raspberries have been ripe for 2-3 weeks, and other varieties will be available through the first frost. Blueberries should be ripe in about two weeks.
Normally, sweet cherries would continue to be available through July and into early August. But not in 2012.
“We’ll hope for a better crop next year,” John Coldwell said.