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Flathead cherry orchards predict busy season

Hockaday Orchards (Photo: NBC Montana){p}{/p}
Hockaday Orchards (Photo: NBC Montana)

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Flathead cherry season is here. Stands are propped up along Flathead Lake, and Hockaday U-pick Orchard will be opening on Friday.

However, orchard owners have had to make a few adjustments this year.

“We will have policies in place to make sure that we sanitize the buckets in between time and any surfaces that are being touched. We’re also going to have a new situation where we’ll have a table in front, and we’ll go get the cherries and take them back to the scales,” Hockaday part-owner Kimberly Hockaday Quinby said.

The group sizes will be limited to 10. Owners say the orchard attracts hundreds of people every year.

“I think that the numbers may even be higher. It’s going to be hard to say, you know, until they start showing up. We have had people that have said that they are not coming because of COVID, but for the most part, people want to come,” Hockaday Quinby said.

She says cherries are smaller this year, but that’s because the amount of rain amount isn’t the same as previous years.

“The crop seems to be very good, and it’s just taking a little bit more time to ripen this year. We didn’t have the heat earlier in July like we normally do,” Hockaday Quinby said.

Hockaday Orchards will be open for seven to 10 days. It all depends on the weather and how many people visit the orchard.

Bush’s Jubilee Orchards in Bigfork has operated for 60 years. They have stands around the valley.

Julia Bush Swanson, the owner’s daughter, says her parents, who live in Florida, couldn’t make it this year.

“My mom didn’t feel safe bringing him up, so this is the first year in 60 years she hasn’t been here to manage the orchard, and she loves the cherry orchard. So we’re really sad that she’s not here,” she said.

She says despite her parents not being able to come this year, business at the stand has been booming.

“On Sunday, there were four of us on the stand, and we couldn’t keep up, so I mean we count by how much our sales are. We spend all day bagging, that’s all we do is bag cherries and bag more cherries,” Bush Swanson said.

Orchard owners say COVID or not, people can’t wait to get their hands on some Flathead cherries.

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