Roots and Branches: The Cherry Trifecta

Photo by Karen Coon

Photo by Karen Coon

Our cherry season is winding down. For the first time in over nine years, the stars have aligned. Only about half of the Bing cherry crop grew to maturation, but it was larger, firmer and remarkably sweeter than any previous crop we have raised. Just the type of cherry that the consumer loves.

Timing was optimum as well. The peak of the northwest cherry market is meant to coincide with the Fourth of July holiday. You want your cherries shipped to the grocers in time to make the marketing blitz generated by our county’s birthday and highlighting the red, white and blue of the American flag. This year, the demand for clean, sweet cherries was at an all-time high. Many of the farmers in the Northwest had light crops, some damaged by the early rain and hail. We escaped that scourge this year and for the first time held the trifecta ticket: Optimum product, optimum demand, optimum price. We will have to wait until September to reap the rewards, but our spirits are soaring rather than plummeting.

Our Rainier cherry harvest has been profitable as well. These sparkling red and yellow cherries were enormous, juicy, sweet and firm. There is always demand for these luscious orbs of unctuousness, especially when they are free from imperfections caused by rain that splits their surface, hail that pox their skin or a dusting of mildew that creeps into the stem well when the weather is hot and humid. We know that we were lucky this year. The torrential rain and spotty hail that plagued the valley in early June hopscotched across the valley, missing our orchards while neighbors’ crops were decimated. We understand the depth of despair they are experiencing when a year’s worth of back breaking labor, a substantial amount of money and the eternal hope for a better season is lost in minutes.

Cherries are like our children. We plant a seed in an environment that is rich in nutrients that will nourish their lives and sustain them in trying times. We tend to their every need, continually educating ourselves in the best growing techniques. We strive to raise the very best fruit, from seed to maturity, protecting them from disease and the hardships we are able to control. We worry about those things that are out of our control and seek answers from the experts in the field. Yet there are times when all one can possibly do is not enough. We are still unable to control the storms that swirl around us. We grieve the loss, and we go on. We continue nurturing the soil, the tree and the fruit with the hope that next year will be better.

Like the cherries, our pear harvest will come earlier than usual this year, allowing little time for rest between the crops. We are gearing up for its arrival. That means cherry packing and harvest clean up, cutting acres of grass that have been allowed to grow unfettered while tractors and employees were delegated to the high priority task of getting the cherries in the bucket and off to market. There are bugs to kill, irrigation pipes to repair, ladders and picking bags, tractors and sprayers to be washed and bins to be distributed between the rows of pear trees.

It is with a sigh of relief and justifiable jubilation that we put this year’s cherry crop to rest. It may get us out from under the dark cloud of debt that has plagued us for the last few years. Sometimes it takes surviving some extremely difficult, inexplicable conditions that allows you to better appreciate the simple rewards of life: Family, friends and community. June proved to be a month of tempered celebration for our family. After an incredibly discouraging, almost inexplicable few years, the light of Lady Liberty began to burn once again.

My faith in some of the leadership I once trusted was challenged. My belief in the concept of justice for all, one of the cornerstones of our country, and an inalienable right that Min Yasui fought for throughout his life, has been challenged repeatedly. Time and time again local, state and national leaders have failed to uphold this basic belief that is the foundation of our country and each of our lives. For some, Lady Liberty’s beacon of light is dimmed by their relentless pursuit of money, power or self-preservation. Others may have filters of privilege and prejudice that blur their vision, blinding them to the basic rights of others.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and it has restored some of my faith in the systems I have in small part helped to create. I have met some amazing people within and outside the imperfect systems in which they work who are able to overcome its flaws, serve as a check and balance and achieve the outcomes with which they were tasked.

Systems are in constant flux. We must be vigilant that the flaws in the systems created to protect children and families, to insure the civil liberties and rights of all people and address the mental health needs of our most vulnerable populations are addressed in a manner that minimally does no harm and optimally creates healthier and happier communities in which we live.

No matter what your favorite fruit may be, may it flourish in this rich valley soil, be nurtured to perfection with loving care, grow resiliently in spite of hardship and fill each new season with hope for the future.

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