Sep 22, 2022
Tart cherry crop keeps industry busy during summer

It has been a busy summer for the cherry industry! The tart cherry crop fell short of the industry and USDA estimates. The Cherry Industry Administrative Board (CIAB) estimated 262.3 million pounds and the total U.S. tart cherry crop came in a little over 240 million pounds. Labor and weather played a role in the shorter crop this year.  

Our agencies abroad started a new fiscal year at the beginning of July and promotions are underway in the United Kingdom, China and South Korea. This will be the last year that CMI will have an agency in the United Kingdom to help promote U.S. tart cherries.  CMI will be attending the Food Export Trade Mission to South Korea at the end of October. We continue to look for the best possible return on investment for our international promotion program.

Australia is one country that we have monitored for a few years now and we see the potential for growth. If all goes well, we plan to launch a new promotion program in Australia in July 2023. With the back-to-back short crops, exports of U.S. Montmorency tart cherries have slowed down the last couple of years. However, we anticipate that this year’s crop will help regain some of the market share worldwide.

Weber Shandwick (WS) serves as our ad agency here in the U.S. and they are gearing up for a new fiscal year starting in October. Both CMI and CIAB have representatives that serve on the task force that oversees WS and the domestic promotion program.  The task force has been working with the WS team on a new platform for next year that will soon be finalized and shared with our board members and marketers. WS will also share the new platform and this year’s program results with our growers at the CMI annual meeting in January 2023.   

CMI is excited to have Nate Chesher join our team in September. Nate is a digital marketing expert and comes to us from the Michigan Potato Industry Commission where he focused on effective video, digital, social media and retail marketing to help increase sales and profitability for potato growers. Nate will serve as the CMI marketing director and will oversee the domestic and international marketing of U.S. tart cherries as well as Michigan sweet cherries. 

Chris Bardenhagen also joined the CMI team as the cherry industry crop management specialist. Chris recently completed a cost-of-production study for sweet and tart cherries. He has been working to obtain a Geographical Indicator for Montmorency tart cherries. The G.I. is a sign for products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. He is working on obtaining a Specialty Crop Block Grant through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Chris is from Northwest Lower Michigan, where he grew up working on his family’s farms, raising cherries, apples and potatoes, among other things. After graduating from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, he continued his education and graduated from Wayne State University Law School where he studied business law and taxation.  Chris is now serving on the Minor Crop Farm Alliance and has been recently appointed to the IR-4 Commodity Liaison Committee.    

CMI is very excited to have the expertise of both Nate and Chris and looks forward to moving the industry forward in a positive way with these great additions to our team!

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In closing this month, I would like to recognize and thank an industry stakeholder that has dedicated his life and career to the cherry industry. Jim Nugent and his wife Toddy Rieger grow cherries on a farm near Suttons Bay. Jim joined MSU Extension in 1976 as the Leelanau County Extension Director. From 1992 until his retirement in 2007, he was a district horticulturalist and coordinator of the NW Michigan Horticultural Research Station.

After his retirement from MSU Extension, Jim has continued to serve the cherry industry in many ways, including playing an intricate role in the development and serving as chairman of the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission (MTFC). After serving three terms with no paid administrative assistance, this summer Nancy Nyquist was hired to serve as the executive director and Trever Meachum was recently appointed chairman of the MTFC.

On behalf of the entire cherry industry, I would like to express our gratitude and appreciation for Jim’s time and dedication to the MTFC. Jim’s integrity, enthusiasm, fairness, intelligence, honesty, and positive attitude is very admired and appreciated.  Thank you, Jim!  We are very fortunate for all that you have done and continue to do for the cherry industry.  

—Julie Gordon, president of the Cherry Marketing Institute

PHOTO: Jim Nugent, a cherry grower and former Michigan State University Extension county director and research station coordinator, recently stepped down as chairman of the Michigan Tree Fruit Commission, which he helped establish. Photo courtesy CMI

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