Cherry farmers monitor weather as season approaches


KALISPELL, Mont. - When we visited Buena Vista Orchards earlier this month, the cherries were dealing with 90-degree temperatures. Now, growers are worried about the chance of rain, and some damage has already been done.

"This is a stressful time of year when your crop is ready to go and you're watching a potential rain event," said cherry grower Bruce Johnson.

Johnson's orchard sits about 16 miles south of Bigfork. While most of his crop is looking good, he's still dealing with the elements.

When water sits on the cherries for too long, they absorb it, and sometimes too much can make them split.

"They're growing faster than their skin allows them to with increased water, and that's what causes a split," said Johnson.

Johnson pays pickers to pick all the cherries, not just the good ones. Bad cherries are known as culls, and the processing plant charges to count the bad ones too.

"They sort the cherries by the pound and they charge us for sorting the cull cherries ,and in the end we don't get paid for those cherries," said Johnson.

At this point all the growers can do is wait and hope the rain stays away long enough for the fruit to ripen and be picked. But Johnson assures us that buyers shouldn't worry about the Flathead crop.

"There's still plenty of good cherries in the Flathead and there will be plenty coming off my orchard too," said Johnson.