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Life is a bowl of cherries for Okanagan growers

Oliver cherry grower Greg Norton displays rapidly growing Rainier cherries on his Oliver orchard. Norton expects to be harvesting in late June this year.
May 11, 2016 - 9:00 PM

OLIVER - It’s looking good for cherry growers in the Okanagan this year.

Third generation Oliver cherry orchardist Greg Norton says he has high hopes for this year’s crop.

“In a nutshell, it’s a really early season. We were early last year and I’m thinking we’re a week ahead of that,” he says, adding the crop is about 10 days to two weeks ahead of 'normal'. "The weather pattern is changing, there’s not much doubt of that, but we haven’t had a long enough period of change to establish a pattern.” 

Norton says there was no frost this spring, and perfect pollination weather.

“The cherries emerged very quickly from the husk after the warm pollination weather this year. Full bloom took place about the same time as last year, but the cherries have developed a lot more quickly this year,” he says.

Norton says the wet winter and early spring weather seemed to have helped the trees get a good start to the season.

“ I can’t remember a wetter January, and because of that I’m predicting a warm, dry summer,” he says. "The orchards are really looking healthy right now, and although I don’t see a bumper crop in terms of quantity, it looks like a good, high quality crop this year. The trees seem to be very happy."

Norton also notes the once commonly heard phrase 'Rain in June is the cherry monsoon', hasn’t been heard the last few years because the traditional June rains haven’t been as much of a factor the past few years.

He expects to be harvesting in late June, probably around June 24, he says.  A potential problem looms in the form of farm labour and timing of the rest of the valley’s cherry crop, which appear to be at a similar stage throughout the valley.

“I was speaking to a cherry orchardist from Oyama yesterday, and it sounds like his crop is only a few days behind mine. That’s unusual because normally there is up to a couple of weeks separation between different growing areas of the valley,” he says, adding if the valley’s cherries ripen at roughly the same time, it could put pressure on cherry prices and the  farm labour supply.

Norton grows several varieties of cherries, including Rainier, Staccato and Sweetheart on his 13-acre orchard, producing close to 200,000 pounds annually.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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