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Four-year-old Kamloops cherry orchard not producing after cold snap

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The fourth season at a giant cherry farm near Kamloops is looking a lot different than usual this year.

Thompson Farm in Pritchard grows cherry trees on 275 acres of land, but due to a cold snap in January that destroyed fruit crops in the Thompson-Okanagan region, the trees are barely producing fruit.

“The tree health is really good, but unfortunately we don’t have the crops we’d like to have,” said farm manager Theunis Bester.

Bester couldn't wager a guess at the percentage of cherry trees producing fruit, but said it's scattered and minimal, and fewer workers have been hired to work the farm this year to mitigate financial losses.

“The trees are healthy and doing well, it’s looking positive for next year,” he said. “We’re working with smaller crews from Mexico and they’re doing a phenomenal job. Hats off for the job they’re doing for us, it’s amazing to see how diligent these employees are.”

In 2020, 30 acres of apples trees were planted on the farm, and this year another orchard was added with ambrosia and honey crisp varietals.

“We have an exceptional apple crop growing,” Bester said. “We’ll always be all about cherries, but it’s nice to diversify to other crops to help fill in the gaps.”

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Thompson Farms is owned by Jealous Fruits, a family-owned and operated company with several orchards throughout the Okanagan.

The apples will be picked on the Kamloops farm late October and shipped to Jealous Fruits warehouse in Kelowna for packing.

Seradaye Lean is an agrologist who works with fruit growers in the Okanagan. In an interview with on April 18 she shared what damage to cherry trees she was seeing following the cold snap.

"It’s extraordinarily variable from site to site, from farm to farm, variety to variety. It has been a real challenge to broad stroke an area. What I have been hearing is some growers said, and I have seen myself, that we have 50 to 70 per cent crop.

“I talked to growers who have said they have a 30 per cent crop, and some growers have said they have nothing to maybe a 10 per cent crop. It’s all over the place.”

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Dwane Dickinson is the owner of Dickinson Family Farm in Summerland where the public can pick their own cherries from six different varietals.

He said his cherry trees are healthy and producing roughly half of what they typically do.

“I’m very fortunate, I’ve looked at other growers, they’re pretty light,” he said. “Matter of fact, I don’t even know how you would get them picked if you pay by the hour.

“The only thing that I would add, I think it’s very important to put a fall mineral spray on. That makes a nice healthy bunch for the next coming year.”

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Founder of Jealous Fruits David Geen said the cherry crops are short in the Okanagan orchards and there isn’t any at the Kamloops cherry farm.

The company has had to trim back staff employees and work with limited crews.

“It’s not a whole lot different than the other cherry growers, and growers in the wine industry this year.”

— With a file from Jesse Tomas

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