Montana is not usually the first state that comes to mind when one thinks of the U.S. cherry deal, but according to fruit marketer Giumarra Companies its Flathead Lake region has an "ideal cherry-growing microclimate due to long summer days and cool nights".
This is likely one of the key drivers behind the group's announcement today that it will be working with family-owned Montana company Glacier Fresh this year.
In a release, Giumarra said the region's trees were fed with mountain glacial water, resulting in large fruit with sweet flavor.
"We are excited to partner with a like-minded company to expand our premium cherry category,” says Craig Uchizono, Giumarra's V.P. Southern Hemisphere.
Glacier Fresh owners Cody and Dusti Herring were also pleased to be starting the new partnership.
"Our farms have traditionally been focused on growing high-quality fruit for the export market,” says Cody Herring, owner of Glacier Fresh. In working with Giumarra, we both felt it would be advantageous to introduce this fruit to retail customers in the U.S," says Cody.
"We are excited to see our cherries coming to U.S. stores this summer, as most consumers don’t know we grow such incredible fruit right here in Montana," Dusti adds.
"We are very proud of our fresh cherry varieties and look forward to working with Giumarra to place them in stores both in our local area and across the country."
Glacier Fresh employs local students and teachers in its custom packinghouse each summer to help pack and ship their crop. The company also hosts permanent field staff in cabins on nearby wooded property.
“We have a large team here every summer who help harvest our fruit, and we consider them part of the Glacier Fresh family,” says Cody.
Currently, Glacier Fresh works with local Montana growers to pack and ship more than one million pounds of fruit, making up more than 25% of the state’s annual cherry harvest.
Cody Herring visited large growing operations in Europe and New Zealand during his most recent off-season, and ultimately invested in sorting equipment with advanced computer software to digitally monitor size and quality on the pack line.
"We are expanding our growing operations annually to meet domestic and international demand, and it’s important for us to maintain quality and be competitive with large growers in the marketplace," he says.
"While we have not previously sold our cherries to the public, we decided our son is old enough to begin learning the business and this would be a great way to teach him the value of a dollar," says Cody.
Glacier Fresh is the first Montana-based cherry orchard Giumarra has worked with.
"Cody and Dusti are excellent examples of progressive, young family farmers who are committed to growing their business using modern technology," says Hillary Brick, senior V.P. marketing for the Giumarra Companies.
"We’re proud to include them in our family of growers as we work together to feed the world in a healthy way."