Savoring the Fruits

Posted in Blog, Meet the Farmers on Friday, June 30, 2023

From the Child of farmworkers to a thriving orchardist, Flor Maldonado is a picture of the American Dream.

Savoring the Fruits

CHERRY SEASON HAS ARRIVED! Few treats compare to a tree-ripened, Washington state cherry on a hot summer day. Juices flow from the tiny morsels, exploding with flavor. Many share memories of enjoying a cherry pie for Independence Day, licking a cherry ice cream cone to cool off, or eating enough fresh cherries to make their guts ache while playing in the summer sun.

Washington is known for its sweet cherry crop and the quality of cherries it delivers to the market each year. Farmers like Flor Maldonado, a second-generation orchardist from Tonasket, ensure the success of Washington cherries each year.

Maldonado’s family started as farmworkers in the tree-fruit industry when she was a child. Growing up alongside her seven brothers and two sisters, their parents were struggling to support their growing family on a farmworker’s wage. They nearly decided to return to Mexico. However, Flor’s parents capitalized on a first-time farmer loan program through the Farm Service Agency, allowing them to move their family to Tonasket, where they started their cherry operation.

Flor’s parents were adamant that their children get an education, so Flor headed off to Washington State University to study agriculture. "My parents thought I was crazy ... I thought I was going to be a doctor, until I realized, you know what? I love this lifestyle," she said. Today, as the owner and operator of M&A Farms, you can find Flor in the office and in the field working side by side with her employees, lending her knowledge and experience to grow some of the best cherries money can buy.

Cherries can be a lucrative business, but they are a significant gamble. The weather greatly impacts M&A Farms' harvests due to how sensitive cherries can be. "There are a lot of ways you can lose your crop,” said Flor. Moisture, combined with fast, hot weather, can cause the cherries to split. Heavy winds can knock the cherries off the trees entirely. As summers continue to set record highs, cherries continue to be vulnerable to drying out on the trees. As all farmers can attest, every year is a gamble, and there’s always a chance of crop failure.

Fortunately for M&A Farms, they have the ability to sell to multiple markets. Their best cherries are picked and sold to the fresh market like those delicious cherries we love to snack on. M&A Farms also sells directly to processors. These cherries are often fruit that has experienced more stress due to heat or wind and are of lower quality but are still excellent for freezing, chopping, and juicing. Think pie fillings, ice creams, preserves, and fruit juices.

Flor’s journey from a farmworker’s child to a thriving orchardist at M&A Farms encapsulates the essence of Washington state’s cherished cherry season. As the sweet aroma of freshly picked cherries fills the air, Flor’s dedication and expertise ensure that these delectable fruits reach the market each year. Despite the inherent risks involved in growing cherries, Flor’s unwavering commitment, inherited from her hardworking parents, has propelled M&A Farms to flourish. Whether you indulge in a luscious cherry pie, savor a cooling ice cream cone, or simply enjoy the plump cherries under the sun, let us not forget the tireless efforts of farmers like Flor and the Maldonado family who have cultivated a legacy of success for their loved ones, community, and the entire industry.

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