Stemilt Growers, based in Wenatchee, WA, has begun to pack fresh cherries in a new, high-altitude box. The special pack type is used only when the company begins harvesting its high-elevation cherries, as it helps differentiate the company's premium late cherry program in the marketplace.
According to Stemilt marketing director Roger Pepperl, the idea for the high-altitude box is nothing new.
"Our founder, Tom Mathison, used to pack cherries in a Hill Cherry box to differentiate Stemilt's late cherry program,’ Mr. Pepperl said in an Aug. 16 press release. “The only difference is that those late cherries were harvested in July, and now we're growing cherries at even higher elevations in order to deliver fresh cherries well into September.”
In fact, Stemilt will be harvesting cherries daily for the next three weeks. This is due in part to a cooler-than-normal spring in Washington that pushed back cherry harvest start dates, but is also due to the unique location of fourth-generation Stemilt cherry grower Kyle Mathison's Amigos orchard, which sits between 3,000 and 3,500 feet above sea level.
In the cherry world, any orchard planted above 1,800 feet is considered high elevation. Having already surpassed that height, Mathison began planting cherries at even higher elevations in 2002 in order to stretch the availability window of Stemilt cherries.
Stemilt will use the high-altitude cherry box from now until the end of its cherry season in September. Skeena, Sweetheart, and Staccato cherries are the varieties harvested on Amigos.
"My dream is to be able to provide consumers with World Famous Stemilt cherries as long as possible," Mr. Mathison said in the press release. "Amigos not only extends the availability of cherries, but it sits on the best growing ground in the world. The mild climate stays cool during the hot summer while the rich soil fuels trees with the right nutrients to produce large, perfect-tasting cherries. We've enjoyed great conditions for growing cherries this summer. The fruit has been large, firm, and full of dessert qualities. The cherries coming from Amigos are no exception. They will deliver a great finale to the most exciting time of the year in produce — cherry season"