August cherries to leave consumers over the moon, or at least closer to it


With data showing that late-season cherries account for more than one-third of a total season’s cherry sales, it’s a good thing that fourth-generation Stemilt cherry grower Kyle Mathison continues to aim higher in order to grow cherries even later.

Mathison is the visionary behind Stemilt’s high-altitude cherry brand, called A Half Mile Closer to the Moon. These premium cherries are harvested fresh daily in August from the unique Amigos Orchard in Wenatchee, WA, where cherries are grown at 2,640 feet above sea level and higher. The combination of late-ripening varieties and the high-altitude climate enables Stemilt to stretch its cherry season.

“For every 100 feet in elevation you go up, it pushes cherry harvest back one day,” Mathison said in a press release. “It’s always been my dream to provide shoppers with world famous Stemilt cherries as long as possible. This year, we’re looking at harvesting until Labor Day, and hopefully in future years, we can go even later.”Stemilt-Moon-Cherries--pouch-bag

Mathison’s goal of taking cherry harvest later will become a reality once new Amigos Orchard cherry plantings come into production, and he surpasses the height of 4,000 feet above sea level. Until then, he relishes in the opportunity to share his special “Moon cherries” with retailers and shoppers in order to deliver a great finale to the 2017 cherry season.

Stemilt’s Moon cherries are set to begin packing into specially marked bags and clamshells around Aug. 10, just as the company wraps up its Kyle’s Pick cherry program. Moon cherries all carry the distinction of coming from altitudes of 2,640 feet above sea level and higher, or literally a half mile closer to the moon. Three key varieties, Sweetheart, Skeena and Staccato, are grown for large sizes and dessert flavors at Amigos.

As an added benefit, the full moon slated for Aug. 7 will mark the beginning of harvest at Amigos, and will be a good omen for cherry quality according to Mathison.

“One of the reasons these are called Moon cherries is because of my belief that harvesting cherries just before a full moon results in fruit with higher sugars and flavor complexity,” Mathison said in the release. “The extra gravitational pull from the full moon seems to energize the tree and its ability to build up and store carbohydrates, which is passed onto the fruit in the form of higher sugars.”

Another attribute that makes Moon cherries stand out is the unique locale they call home. Named after the Spanish word for friends, the Amigos orchards overlook the Columbia River and town of Wenatchee, not too far from the Mathison family’s original homestead on Stemilt Hill. Because of its high altitudes, Amigos remains cooler during the hot summer and has cool nights, which is vital for cherry growth and quality.

With more than a month of cherry harvest to go, Stemilt Marketing Director Roger Pepperl recommended that retailers continue to have good display space and size dedicated to cherries, A final promotion should be in August plans, and driving impulse sales through quality and freshness is a must. Retailers can use A Half Mile Closer to the Moon boxes to build displays, and Stemilt can provide signage or digital content to help tell the special Moon cherry story to shoppers both in and out of store.  

“Cherries are a huge contributor to annual produce department dollars, even though they aren’t available all year long,” said Pepperl. “August can and should be a big month for cherry sales and bringing in fresh and high-quality cherries through our A Half Mile Closer to the Moon program is a great way to ensure late-season success.”

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