When you scoop up ice cream with cherries in it this summer or add a handful of dried cherries to your salad chances are the fruit won’t be from Michigan. Or even from the United States.
Extremely unusual weather this spring has crippled the state’s entire tree fruit industry. The bulk of the nation’s tart cherry crop is produced here.
The official estimate for the size of the cherry crop won’t be in for a few more weeks.
Even the most optimistic projections for the amount of fruit on the trees amounts to less than ten percent of what the state typically grows.
Tim Brian is president of Smeltzer Orchards in Benzie County.
He grabs a stem from a tart cherry tree and with his thumbnail slices open several buds.
"And right there you can see that brown pistil right there, that’s cooked. There isn’t a single good one in this whole cluster."
A bizarre stretch of hot weather in early March woke trees up from winter dormancy. That was followed by more than a dozen nights of hard freezing temperatures.
Brian thinks there will be entire orchards that won’t be harvested at all this year even if there is a scattering of fruit in them.
"I mean, with $4 fuel, even if there is only ten cherries on a tree that’s not going to be economically feasible to harvest."
Smeltzer’s has been in the business for well over a century. The company runs a medium sized processing plant that freezes and dries cherries.
Inside the plant, a dozen people are pitting and sorting sweet cherries. The thing is… these cherries are from Chile.
"Normally we would not do this. This is actually the first time we’ve done something like this."