Michigan Bucket List: U-Pick Cherry Farms
| 4 min read
When summer turns hot and the days are long, you know it’s cherry season in Michigan.
These jewel-colored fruits – in varieties both sweet and tart – are some of the most recognizable fruits our state produces each summer. You can buy them by the pound at your local grocery store, or pick up a quart or two at your hometown farmer’s market. But for a real summer experience, why not head to one of the several U-pick cherry farms that dot the Lower Peninsula and spend a few hours collecting your own buckets of cherries from an orchard? We’ll show you how to find some U-Pick operations close to home.
Stars of the fruit belts
Our Lake Michigan breezes create microclimates that are well-suited to growing cherries. Michigan farms grow more tart cherries than anywhere else in the United States, with last year’s forecasted crop weighing in at nearly 160 million pounds, reports the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Sweet and tart cherry orchards fill several fruit belt areas across the state, including southwest Michigan, areas north and west of Grand Rapids, and of course the Traverse City area, which is known as the “Cherry Capital of the World.” Fresh cherry season typically starts in late June and runs into August, with cherries available dried, frozen or as a juice or concentrate year-round.
Cherries are a healthy addition to our diet. Eaten fresh, baked into pies or cookies, or used frozen in smoothies and other icy drinks, they offer fiber and lots of vitamins. Here are other benefits, according to the Michigan Ag Council.
- Varieties like Montmorency tart cherries have some of the highest levels of disease-fighting antioxidants when compared to other fruits.
- Elite athletes and others are incorporating tart cherry juice into their diets because research has shown it can aid the body’s recovery after exercise.
- Tart cherry juice can improve sleep quality.
- Cherries are good sources of Vitamin C, potassium and beta carotene.
Ready to pick your own cherries this summer? Here are some U-pick orchards organized by region. Make sure to check the farm’s website, social media pages or call them before you go, so you can check hours and prices.
Spicer Orchards Farm Market and Winery in Fenton: Pick-your-own cherries are offered here. There is also a farm market, winery and playground on site.
Verellen Orchards and Cider Mill in Washington: U-pick cherry orchards are located across the street from the main store. Call ahead for picking times.
Wasem Fruit Farm in Milan: Pick-your-own tart cherries here. You can also bring well-behaved and leashed dogs into the orchard. Check the farm’s website for more details.
Crane Orchards in Fennville: This huge farm and orchard operation offers U-pick cherries and boasts five different varieties of sweet cherries. These sweet cherries grow with hues of dark red, black and reddish-yellow.
Fruit Acres Farm Market in Coloma: Orchard U-pick is offered here for sweet cherries. There is generally a three to 10-day window for picking, depending on conditions and how many customers want to pick their own.
Stover’s Farm Market in Berrien Springs: Sweet and tart cherries are on the U-pick list at this farm. Target dates for both crops are June and July.
Goodfellow Orchards in Sparta: Tart and sweet cherries are available in these orchards. Watch their social media page for updates.
Rasch Cherry and Apple Market in Conklin: U-pick dates typically begin the last week of June, but check this farm’s website for updates.
DeKleine Orchards in Hudsonville: U-pick sweet and tart cherries. This season, pick-your-own hours should start the last week of June. Check the farm’s Facebook page and website for details.
Santucci Farm in Traverse City: This U-pick farm offers both dark and light sweet cherries, as well as tart cherries. July is the prime time for picking here but check the farm’s website first.
Third Coast Fruit Company in Traverse City: This cider mill and farm operation offers U-pick cherries from June 30 to Aug. 13, seven days a week. For more details, check the website.
Rennie Orchards in Williamsburg: Just north of Traverse City, this spot has a bounty of pick-your-own cherry options. They grow three kinds of tart cherries and a buffet of 15 different types of sweet cherries, including early season and late-ripening varieties.
Photo credit: Getty Images