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Family Tree Farms Marketing LLC in Reedley, CA, may not be one of “the big guys” in the California cherry deal. But in the early season out of the Central Valley, the company is one of the main players, according to Dovey Plain, marketing coordinator.

The firm packs and ships several early-season cherry varieties, with the season typically starting in early May. “Brooks and Tulares are our main varieties,” followed by Coral Champagne. “But we do have a smattering of others,” she said. “There are some new varieties [of early cherries] coming into production” that growers “in this region” are growing. “We’ve got a good assortment of those in limited supply.” Some are company-grown, and some are from outside growers.

02-CalCherries-FamTree-GofoDon Goforth, marketing director for Family Tree Farms LLC.When Family Tree Farms first expanded into the cherry business six years ago, “we were taking things up to the Stockton [CA] area to be packed,” said Ms. Plain in an interview with The Produce News. That continued to be the case for several years. But now, for the second year, “we are packing down here,” she said. “We’ve got our packing facility set up here, so everything is picked local, packed local, cooled and shipped right out of here. It is good for the cherries. They are pretty much in and out the same day,” assuring fresher delivery to the stores.

The cherries are packed in the “Family Tree” label, she said. “We have redesigned our box this year. It is a beautiful, high-graphic, black and red box. It looks great on a pallet.”

Most of the cherries are packed in zip closure bags, shipped with the bags not zipped. In addition, this year the company will be packing some grapes in the new stand-up pouch bag that is gaining some popularity in the trade.

Family Tree Farms’ cherry acreage for the 2013 season looks to be similar to last year. “We are still tying up some contracts, but I believe it is about the same,” Ms. Plain said. “But we are expecting more volume because of what we are seeing in the orchards. It is just about right for us, for a May program.

“The Tulares, he says, have a little lighter set than normal,” Ms. Plain continued. “But he thinks that will just led to a little increase in size, so overall it looks like a good thing.” Unlike some cherry growers, “we do a little thinning” on cherries. So if the lighter set on Tulares means that “we don’t have to thin” that variety and can “still get the size we are looking for, we will be happy.”

Family Tree Farms’ cherry shipping season will start around the first of May and run right through the month. “Then it will drop off quickly after the first of June,” she said.