I went by the farm today, and the cherry shakers are on the cooling pad and [drumroll] ready to rumble! Ok, that sounded way better in my head than it does when I type it, but the bottom line is, the shakers are ready to go.
In the photo above are two “one-man shakers,” meaning that one person drives it and operates everything on the shaker. The shaker is driven up to a cherry tree, the tarp (the part that looks like a big insect) is wrapped around the trunk of the tree, a claw-like thing grips the trunk of the tree and shakes the cherries onto the tarp, and the cherries are rolled onto a conveyor belt, which transports the cherries into a big tank filled with water on the side of the shaker.
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When the tank is full, a person driving a forklift picks up the tank and loads it onto a flatbed truck. When the truck is full of tanks, they’re driven to a “cooling pad,” where the cherries are cooled and hardened up for the trip to the processing plant.
As a side note, along with the one-man shakers, my family also still uses the older model of shakers, which consist of a long “catching frame” (the tarp and conveyor belt, driven by someone on a tractor), and a separate cherry shaker, driven by someone else. On both the older shakers and the one-mans, there’s always someone walking along behind the tank, sorting the leaves and twigs out of the top. Tennis rackets work great for that.
Of course, everyone who grew up on a cherry farm worked on that farm at some point (along with all our friends). Back in the day, my mom and I drove forklifts – her bringing the fresh tanks and putting them on the back of the catching frame, and me taking the tanks full of cherries to the truck. Good times. I’ll dig out some archival photos and post them in the next week or so.
My niece, Heatherlyn Johnson Reamer, who runs Johnson Farms with my brothers, Dean and Ward, says they’re planning to start shaking brine sweets (lighter cherries like Golds and Napoleons) on July 10, with dark sweets to follow. Tart cherries should be ripe around July 15-17.
However, they hope to have some dark sweets on the farm stand this weekend. Johnson Farms’ stand is located just past 14388 Center Road on the Old Mission Peninsula.
For a complete list of Old Mission Peninsula farm stands, visit our interactive map here.