The Circus is Coming

Posted in Blog, WA Grown on Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Because of their sterling reputation and limited availability, Washington cherries cause a fuss all around the world.

The Circus is Coming

IT'S A FACT: THE WORLD LOVES WASHINGTON CHERRIES. Whether farm-fresh from the tree, baked into pastries, or dried into juicy gems, these tiny bursts of summer have developed a passionate following at home and abroad.

In fact, Washington is the top grower of sweet cherries in the country, and the state's farmers export about 25% of their cherries worldwide each year. Last year, Canada, South Korea, and Taiwan were the main consumers, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, and exports of fresh sweet cherries brought a total of $238 million to Washington. Though the fruits range in hues from sun-gold and pink to deepest magenta, the color doesn't seem to matter to consumers: they want them all.

B.J. Thurlby, president of the Washington State Fruit Commission, said the state produces about 200,000 metric tons of cherries each year, and many factors make Washington a prime place for cherry farming.

"The cherries grown in Washington are unique," he said, "because we have such a wonderful high-nitrogen, mountainous region, and it's a unique microclimate."

Because cherries have an extremely short growing season, there's also a small window for them to be sold, said Willie Sosa, who works in export marketing and sales for Sage Fruit Company. This increases popularity but also puts pressure on the growers to make sure the fruits sell quickly.

"It's one of those commodities that you can still only get a couple times out of the year," he said. "It's one of those things that you have to plan for, you know? You're not going to have it all season long, and people are waiting for them."

Juan Carlos Moreira, the Mexican representative for Washington Fruit Growers, said they created a public relations campaign in Mexico to declare the week of the Fourth of July to be Mexican Cherry Week.

"With Northwest cherries, we do the circus approach," he said. "The circus comes into town and stays in town for only a few weeks. With cherries, we're talking about from eight to 10 weeks a year. It's truly seasonal, so we have to tell everybody, 'The circus is coming! The circus is coming! Northwest cherries are going to be here!'"

At the Global Produce and Floral Show in Orlando, an importer from Taiwan named Panagiotis said he was there to find the best fruit from Washington.

"We don't have cherries in Taiwan, so we have to source from other places around the world," he said. "We find the cherries from Washington are one of the best in the world."

Thurlby of the Washington State Fruit Commission said Washington is an incredible state for agriculture in general.

"If you're the type of person who likes to have locally grown fruit, potatoes, produce, you're going to be really happy," he said, "because we grow the best in the world right here in our little corner of the world."

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