FINLEY POINT - It’s that special time of year on the east shore of Flathead Lake as the cherry harvest is officially underway.
This year’s crop is smaller than normal due to a cold, wet spring and two massive hailstorms damaging a large portion of trees.
But don’t let that deter you as the current crop of fruit looks beautiful with cherries tasting just as sweet as ever.
“We got here at about 8 o’clock,” said Choteau resident Joel Olhausen.
Olhausen traveled all the way from Choteau to pick cherries at O’Dells Orchard off Highway 35 in Yellow Bay.
“I think we’re pretty close to 40 pounds.”
Joel picks cherries at O’Dells orchard each summer, he said the sweet cherries keep him coming back and can be enjoyed year-round.
“We do lots with them, everything from my wife baking, we flash freeze them, they’re actually a good wintertime snack,” added Joel.
Sean O’Dell and his wife have operated the orchard for the last 30 years.
They provide, ladders, boxes, and cheery buckets for a memorable u-pick experience.
“When they pick 'em they sort through them on the trees, and they come up with just gorgeous fruit,” said O'Dell.
O’Dell’s orchard is made up of 430 cherry trees sitting on 4½ acres overlooking Flathead Lake.
Families can pick as much fruit as they want at $2.50 a pound.
“We’ve had one group come in and over a period of a couple days they picked 100 30-pound boxes — 3,000 pounds.”
Down on Finley Point, operations at the cherry grower cooperative is in full swing with roughly half of this year’s harvest already processed.
“1,500 bins is 450,000 pounds, so hopefully we will come in around 900,000 pounds or even closer to 1 million pounds which would be really good considering what we’ve had to deal with." - Monson Fruit Field representative Brian Campbell
One million pounds may sound like a lot of cherries, but Campbell said that’s one of the smaller crops on record in the last two decades.
“We had two hailstorms come through the valley and one of them, in particular, took about a quarter of the volume of the coop so that was a huge hit, it was the worst hailstorm I’ve seen around here.”
Despite the small crop, Campbell said the cherries look and taste better than ever.
“Overall, it’s really good quality and it’s coming off real well, and luckily we haven’t had any delays from weather now during harvest like rain, so it’s going pretty smoothly,” added Campbell.
Campbell said cherries will keep trickling into the coop for the next two weeks while O'Dell said his orchard will remain open until all the cherries are picked.