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Oneonta cherry volume up despite later start to season

Though the Northwest cherry harvest is getting off to a later start in 2011 due to weather events earlier in the season, Oneonta Starr Ranch Growers in Wenatchee, WA, nonetheless expects an increase in volume this year.

“Right now we’re seeing things getting off to a somewhat late start,” said Dan Wohlford, national sales representative for Oneonta, in mid-May.

Mr. Wohlford added, “It will be a struggle to get any kind of volume loading for the Independence Day holiday.”

He went on to say that load volume will begin “ramping up quickly in early July, and we anticipate heavy volume in July and August.”

But the longtime produce man said, “Of course all this can change depending on what Mother Nature throws at us between now and harvest.”

Mr. Wohlford said Oneonta anticipates good supplies once volume hits, and he noted that since partnering with Oregon cherry and pear grower Diamond Fruit in summer 2008, Oneonta has seen good growth in its numbers a consistent uptick.

“Our cherry production has grown steadily over the past several years,” Mr. Wohlford said in mid-May. “New trees coming into production has put us close to two million boxes.”

He added, “Our partnership with Diamond Fruit in Oregon allows us to have fruit later in the season, which extends opportunities for our customers through July.”

While the majority of its cherry production is in dark sweets, Oneonta also produces the sweet and tender Rainier, and Mr. Wohlford said there is growth in that variety as well.

“Our Rainier volume will be up over past few years,” he said, noting, “This variety continues to gain in popularity.

As with its apple and pear programs, Oneonta is offering cherries in the “snaQ” packaging. Mr. Wohlford said the engaging graphics and pack design are well suited to the fruit, and Rainiers will be available in the “CherrysnaQ” containers.

“It works very well because most of our Rainiers are packaged in clamshells,” he said.

Oneonta Starr Ranch cherries are distributed both domestically and offshore, and Mr. Wohlford said, “We have many customers in Asia and the Far East, and our export customers are always eagerly awaiting cherry season.”