Did you know that Stemilt harvests fresh cherries daily well into August? It’s true, and made possible by my father’s unique Amigos Orchards, located between 2,800 and 3,200 feet above sea level.
I ventured out to see harvest at Amigos earlier this week (which is running slightly ahead this year due to an early bloom and warm temperatures) and after seeing the large, firm, and flavorful cherries coming off the tree, I couldn’t think of a better post to share with you than one about Amigos.
My father, Kyle, lives and breathes cherries every day of the year. When he’s not harvesting them in California, Chile, or Washington State, he is researching new cherry varieties or growing techniques. He’s always trying new things and truly pushes the envelope when it comes to growing cherries. Amigos, named after the Spanish word for friends, is a perfect example of that envelope pushing.
You see, in the cherry world, any orchard planted above 1,800 feet is considered high elevation. Having already surpassed this height, Kyle began planting cherries at even higher elevations back in 2002 in order to stretch the availability window of Stemilt cherries. It didn’t happen all at once, but over time Amigos was born, and Kyle’s dream to provide people with cherries to enjoy on Labor Day would soon become a reality.
I know I’m biased but Amigos has evolved into a truly premier growing locale for cherries for two distinct reasons. First, its high-elevation location means it is later to bloom than other regions and therefore not as susceptible to frost. Second, during the summer growing season, the daytime temperatures are warm at Amigos, but not as hot as other places would be thanks to the altitude. It also cools down at night on Amigos which helps trees re energize for the day that follows. This temperature swing is important for building sugars in the fruit and helps deliver consistently large, sweet, and firm cherries.
That’s not to say that growing cherries at Amigos doesn’t come with it’s own set of challenges! An extremely cold winter is always a concern, as the cold can damage or kill trees and the buds that have already formed on them to create the next cherry crop. (However, snow is a welcome sight on Amigos, as my great-grandfather always said, “the deeper the snow, the better the cherries.”) Another challenge in growing cherries on Amigos came with getting the water to the land. It’s not an issue now thanks to a large reservoir and a pump system, but a lot of sweat and trial-and-error went into getting it to that point.
The varieties grown at Amigos are also unique, so much so that Kyle calls the three varieties – Sweetheart, Skeena (shown above), and Staccato® – his three loves. They are late-ripening varieties that when combined with a high-elevation locale like Amigos, allows Kyle and Stemilt to deliver fresh cherries to you into late August each year. I hope you can get a final taste of our cherries before the season ends. Look for them now in our Half Mile Closer to the Moon packaging!