Sweet cherries on the Johnson Farms cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Sweet cherries on the Johnson Farms cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
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I always know how fast the summer is speeding by when cherry season approaches and ramps up into full steam. I always plan to post more about the run-up to cherry season, and suddenly, it’s upon us! At my family’s farm – Johnson Farms – things are currently in “full steam” mode.

Below are a few photos of what’s happening on the Johnson Farms cooling pad just north of Mapleton. It is still very much a family operation, with my brothers, brother-in-law, sisters-in-law and nephew working on the cooling pad and orchards.

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The cherries in these photos are sweet cherries, and at this writing, they’re now done with sweets and are into tarts. Sweet cherries are not “cooled” like tart cherries. They’re shaken into wooden boxes and shipped downstate in those boxes.

Tarts, on the other hand, are shaken into metal tanks filled with water and taken to the cooling pad, where they’re cooled and firmed up before being shipped downstate. “Light brine” cherries, which are turned into Maraschino cherries, can be shaken into tanks, too. Check out this story to see how the cooling pad works.

Below is a video of the newer “side-by-side” cherry shaker in action. To show you how fast things can change in just a few years, check out this story from several years ago to see how a one-man shaker works. I believe they’re still using the one-man shakers, but the side-by-sides are the newer models.

By all accounts, things are going ok so far this season. We’ve had a few rains, but no major storms that destroyed entire crops.

One thing about cherry farming is that farmers often don’t know how much they’ll make for their crops until several months – or longer – down the line, which can make things stressful when you’re paying out for labor, spray materials, equipment and more beginning early in the spring. Most farmers do have crop insurance, but it only covers a portion of the costs associated with running a farm.

There are also a lot more rules and regulations than back when I was a kid working on the farm. “Farm Audits” take place to ensure that farmers are in compliance with things like cleaning and sanitation, pre-harvest orchard inspections, visitor logs, pest and animal monitoring and more. You’ll see a couple of photos of the logs below.

And then there’s the matter of cherry imports coming into the country from places like Turkey, despite import tariffs enacted by the government. Fortunately, all of the cherries pictured here have a home, but that is not the case for some farmers in northern Michigan.

Check out a few pics of this year’s cherry season…

Cherry Season 2023 at Johnson Farms; Tanks being loaded on the cooling pad to ship downstate | Jane Boursaw Photo
Cherry Season 2023 at Johnson Farms; Tanks being loaded on the cooling pad to ship downstate | Jane Boursaw Photo
Cherry Season 2023 at Johnson Farms; Empty boxes being unloaded on the cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Cherry Season 2023 at Johnson Farms; Empty boxes being unloaded on the cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Sweet cherries on the Johnson Farms cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Sweet cherries on the Johnson Farms cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Sweet cherries on the Johnson Farms cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Sweet cherries on the Johnson Farms cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Laura Johnson staples info tags onto boxes coming in from the farms | Jane Boursaw Photo
Laura Johnson (my sis-in-law) staples info tags onto boxes coming in from the farms; my other sis-in-law, Carol Johnson, also works on the pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Sweet cherries on the Johnson Farms cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Sweet cherries on the Johnson Farms cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Full boxes of sweet cherries are trucked from the orchards to the cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Full boxes of sweet cherries are trucked from the orchards to the cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Cherry Season 2023 at Johnson Farms; Full boxes being loaded on the cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Cherry Season 2023 at Johnson Farms; Full boxes being loaded on the cooling pad (that’s my brother, Ward Johnson) | Jane Boursaw Photo
Regulations require visitors to sign in to the cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Regulations require visitors to sign in to the cooling pad | Jane Boursaw Photo
Inspection Logs for farm audits | Jane Boursaw Photo
Inspection Logs for farm audits | Jane Boursaw Photo

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A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever.

To keep the Gazette going, click here to make a donation. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

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