A day in the life of a fruit grower is one spent with eager hands reaching and plucking fruit off trees and navigating the unpredictable curveballs mother nature sends your way all year. I’ll never forget the perspective that our 4th gen cherry grower, Kyle Mathison, shared with me one day, he said; “I am not successful because of what I do, but for how hard I try.” These words couldn’t ring truer when you’ve got both hands on this wheel known as agriculture, but you’re not really the one driving the show. Stemilt strives to be the best it can be with each and every day, rain or shine. We put a lot of effort into making each season a successful one that delivers fruit of high quality and most importantly, nutritious deliciousness!
A day in the life of a fruit grower is a long one, so sit back, get those reading glasses on and maybe grab a cup of coffee or tea, and read on.
3:30 A.M. Wake Up and Smell the Cherries
Let’s set the scene for the day. It’s 3:30 a.m. and Kyle is waking up BEFORE the crack of dawn to meet with his team and set the pace for a great day of harvest. Grabbing his signature overalls and t-shirt, he makes some final adjustments in the mirror before tying his luxurious hair back into a humble ponytail. He hops in his truck and starts the decent halfway down Stemilt Hill to greet his team awaiting him at the meeting site.
4:30 A.M. Rally the Troops and Bless the Day
As Kyle climbs out of his truck, he’s met with the cool breeze of the early-morning air waking up his senses as he thinks to himself “this is the perfect conditions for optimum cherry sweetness and aromatics.”. He walks over to the front of his team and fills them in on everything they need to know about the cherries they will be picking for the day. He rallies the troops getting them hyped up to pick only the best cherries that scream “World Famous” and to make sure we’re delivering on high-quality flavors that delight. Kyle always ends the meeting with a positive and encouraging prayer giving his blessing to the cherries to soon be picked and for the health and safety of those picking them.
5 A.M. Let Harvest Begin!
And they’re off! The picking teams disperse to their harvesting locations with ladders, buckets, and weight scales to pick World Famous Cherries with vibrant flavor and ultimate crispiness. I might be biased, but Kyle is one of the most passionate cherry growers I have ever met. You’ll find him in the orchards with his team speaking the Spanish language and passing on motivating words through the rows to his crew (as he sneaks a cherry or two into his mouth.) Harvest times can vary depending on the morning weather since cherries hold their firmness and quality best when picked at lower temperatures. Because of this, cherries are placed gently into bins after picking and covered with a wet shade cloth to keep them cool. Then, they are put into hydrocoolers which drench them in chilling waters to prep them for the journey to Stemilt’s packaging facilities.
10 A.M. Wrap it Up!
The team, picking away, will spend about 5 hours in the orchards to get the cherries off the tree before it gets too warm. On average, the picking crews aim to fill their buckets no less than 25 lbs. before dumping into the shade-covered bins. In case you’re curious, 25 lb. pounds of cherries are heavy cherries! On average, a cherry picker will pick anywhere from 700-800 lbs. of cherries a day! Can you believe that comes from just one person??
11 A.M. To Stemilt Headquarters
As the sun intensifies and cherry bins are transported out of the orchards, Kyle counts another day of successful harvesting. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he climbs back into his truck (or motorcycle depending on the day) to ascend up the hill where his home overlooking one of the most breathtaking views of Wenatchee Valley awaits. When he arrives, he is greeted by his loving wife, Jan, and his very old and sweet cat, Smudge. He can finally take off his sunglasses and hat and relax. A long morning of harvest and an extra early start time ensures this cherry grower is in bed no later than 8 p.m. As the bed calls his name, Kyle says his final prayers at night blessing the day he had, and all the cherries picked hoping they delight people all around the world. He closes his eyes to soon open them to another bright and shiny morning of a day in the life of a fruit grower.