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Cherry Industry

Tart Cherries

Michigan is the leading producer in the United States of tart cherries, producing 70 to 75 percent annually. Utah, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Washington produce the other 25 to 30 percent.

Tart Cherry Tree Michigan usually produces 200 to 250 million pounds of tarts, depending upon many factors, including weather and the age of the trees. The entire U.S. crop is 250 to 300 million pounds. There are 36,000 acres of tart cherry trees in Michigan; about 55,000 acres nationwide.

The Grand Traverse Region produces over 50 percent of Michigan's annual tart cherry crop, or about 100 to 120 million pounds.

Tart cherries are seldom sold fresh. They generally are canned or frozen shortly after harvesting. The main variety of tart cherries is called the Montmorency. It has been in the U.S. for more than a century because it is best for pies, preserves, jellies, juice and other products.

Sweet Cherries

The Pacific states are the primary producers of sweet cherries but Michigan still ranks in the top four, producing about 20 percent of the annual crop.

The Grand Traverse Region produces about 80 percent of Michigan's annual sweet cherry crop, or about 50 million pounds.

Michigan produces these varieties of sweets; Emperor Francis, Napoleon and Schmidt.

The majority of Michigan's sweet cherry crop is processed. The main product made with sweets is maraschino cherries. But, while driving through Northern Michigan you can find sweet cherries at a local supermarket, farm market or roadside stand.

Michigan Cherries

Cherry BlossomsCherry trees can grow almost anywhere. However the quality and quantity of fruit depends on specific conditions. Climate is very important which is why Michigan orchards are located primarily along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Lake Michigan tempers the Arctic winds in winter and cools the orchards in summer. Sandy soil and rolling hills along west Michigan also play a large part in helping Michigan's cherry crops. For example, Wisconsin's primary cherry producing land is on a peninsula (Door County) which gives it growing conditions very similar to Northern Michigan.

Michigan's tart cherry orchards extend north from Benton Harbor all the way to Elk Rapids. Located in the middle is the Grand Traverse Area, which is the heart of cherry country. Most of Michigan's sweet cherries come from the Grand Traverse Area. Traverse City, located in Grand Traverse County is nationally known as the "Cherry Capital of the World".

July is when both tart and sweet cherries ripen in Michigan. The third week of July is usually the peak time to harvest. The national cherry festival is held in July every year to celebrate the cherry industry Northern Michigan. It is a week long festival held in Traverse City.

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