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Giant cherry farm near Kamloops gearing up for busy season

Cherry trees are blossoming at Jealous Fruit farms in Kamloops and the Okanagan.
Cherry trees are blossoming at Jealous Fruit farms in Kamloops and the Okanagan.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Jealous Fruits

The third season is well underway for a massive cherry farm near Kamloops that keeps on expanding every year.

Thompson Farm in Pritchard is owned by Jealous Fruits and is currently growing cherry trees on 275 acres plus some apple and peach trees. The trees have made it through a long, cold spring.

“The trees are really healthy, we expected much worse but everything is looking really positive for the year,” said farm manager Theunis Bester.

Jealous Fruits is a family-owned and operated company with several orchards throughout the Okanagan Valley. Operations expanded to the Pritchard location a few years ago. Every year more trees are planted and the older ones produce more cherries as they mature, with the farm producing hundreds of tons of cherries.

The trees started moving into full bloom earlier this week and seasonal workers have begun to arrive on the farm.

“We have a couple of guys on the farm already,” he said. “We’re well prepared for the year. We have a brand new camp with new buildings ready for them.”

READ MORE: Cherry blossoms beginning to burst open in the Okanagan, Kamloops 

The orchards in Kamloops and the Okanagan bring in seasonal workers in the summer and despite a shortage of labour in the country, Bester feels confident he’ll have enough workers to get the job done.

The weather, of course, is more unpredictable. Extreme heat, like the extreme 'heat dome event' in 2021 that put local temperatures at or near 50C, will cause cherries to shrivel. The potential for similar events are a concern for Bester.

“The trees have fully recovered from that but yeah, we have to monitor the heat stress on the trees,” he said. “The farm has heat tolerant varieties and there are ways to lessen overheating just by formulations of irrigation, and luck. We have to keep soils moist and push through.”

READ MORE: Here are 7 tasty berries growing wild in the Okanagan

The farm started growing apples on 30 acres last year and Bester said that project is going well and will likely be doubled in size in the near future. The company is continuing to test how well peach trees grow on the farm.

The cherries can be purchased by locals between the end of July and beginning of September at the packing plant in Winfield by the Kelowna airport. There are plans in the works to make them available for local pickup near the Kamloops farm but nothing has been set up for this year.

Jealous Fruits ships by sea and air to several countries around the world, the biggest markets being in China and Korea, where the fruit is seen as a luxurious treat.

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