Read all our farm reports here, where I follow along with my brothers, Dean Johnson and Ward Johnson, and tell you what’s happening on Johnson Farms each week.
This week on the farm, Old Mission Peninsula farmers are starting to get ready for cherry harvest. For my brothers, Dean Johnson and Ward Johnson, that means getting the equipment ready to go, organizing the cooling pad/receiving station, spraying loosener on the cherries, and working with processors to determine what kind of crop they’ll have.
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Loosener is a type of spray that does just what the name implies – helps to loosen the cherries so they’ll come off the trees easier. After the loosener goes on, harvest generally starts within ten to 12 days after that. You’ll find some cherries on OMP farm stands right now, but as for harvesting, they’re looking at starting around the first week of July.
Take a look at some of the cherry orchards on the OMP right now, and you’ll see lots of reds happening, as well as the peachy-yellow tones for the light sweets. Depending on weather conditions, the harvesting sequence usually goes like this: light sweets, dark sweets and tarts.
Here are some cherries that are starting to ripen. I actually took this photo on Nancy Heller’s farm a few days ago, when I stopped to take pics of the Warrens baling hay (stay tuned for that).
Getting the Equipment Ready
Before sending the cherry shakers, forklifts and trucks into the orchards for harvest, everything is checked over for any necessary repairs. Dean and Ward work on their own equipment year-round, but they also have an on-call mechanic for the big stuff.
They continue to use one-man shakers, but Dean also invested in a newer side-by-side shaker a couple of years ago. Cherry shakers have come a long way from the limb-shakers first used when farmers started shaking cherries – rather than picking them – in the 1960s.
Here’s a photo of the one-man shaker at the shop getting ready to go. Below that is the side-by-side at the Receiving Station across the road.
The Johnson Farms Cooling Pad/Receiving Station also got some upgrades. A while back, they took some of the trees down along the road, and this week, local contractor John Sprenger smoothed out some of the dirt there, and took the excess dirt up the hill to the barnyard. You might remember that John also took down the Ted Ayers barn at the end of last year.
This upgrade gives the farm crew more space to store cherry and apple boxes.
These cherry boxes will get moved back into the newly-smooth spot near Center Road, to make space for workers and tractors on the pad during harvest season.
They usually rent a few extra forklifts for the cooling pad during harvest season. Here’s one, along with the canisters that power it. I’m not sure if they run on propane or compressed natural gas. I’ll ask Dean about that. Below that is a photo of one of the bigger Case forklifts.
And Other Farm Work Continues
In these farm reports, we’ve been following the new apple orchard on Dean’s farm on the corner of Center Road and Kroupa Road. First they got the parcel ready to plant, then they planted the trees, pounded the poles in, and installed irrigation.
This week, the workers were there doing some finishing touches, and the tree guards will go on to keep the deer and other animals from chewing up the tender trees. Photos below.
When I worked on the farm in my younger years, it was always so interesting to me how many times you would go through the orchard after the trees were planted. You got to know each tree pretty well after planting, trimming, mowing, irrigating and doing other tasks throughout the year.
And speaking of mowing, here’s Dean mowing the apple orchard next to the new orchard on that same parcel.
This is also a good time to remind all of us driving down Old Mission Peninsula roads to give the farmers extra room. Here’s Dean on Center Road on his way to mow the apple orchard pictured above…
And just because, here’s some pictures of Dean and Laura’s horses. Summer is in the front, and Sugar in the back. After I took a picture of Dean mowing the orchard, I turned around and they were standing at the fence ready for their close-up.
And here is Summer and Sugar’s barn. The barn quilt is part of Evelyn Johnson’s Barn Quilt Project some years ago. You can still buy her book, “Barns of Old Mission Peninsula,” on Amazon here.
What About the Hail?
As anyone who was on the Old Mission Peninsula a few days ago knows, we got some hail. Based on the photos I saw on Facebook, the volume of hail really varied depending on which part of the Peninsula you were on. A few photos from the north end showed people with enough hail to actually shovel it off their deck, and water spouts were spotted in the Glen Arbor area.
We didn’t get too much here on Bluff Road, but as with any weather, be it frost, snow, hail or rain, it’s hard to say how much damage it did to the farm crops that survived through the frost this spring. Time will tell.
You know how every day you wake up and there’s some new problem to solve? Every day brings some new challenge, and that’s certainly true for farmers. Only for them, their entire livelihood hinges on solving those problems, many of which are out of their control.
Here’s a photo of the hail that John Sprenger posted on Facebook on June 22, 2021.