Cherry Crops ‘Picked Over’ by Tough Winter

EFFORT — It’s officially the first week of summer, but winter is still to blame for some problems in the Poconos. Farmers there say this season’s cherry crop may be cut in half because of the long, bitter cold season.

About 300 cherry trees sit on Heckman Orchards in Effort, but this season the bright red bunches of fruit look picked over.

Farmers say winter is to blame.

“The extremely cold weather we had in January and February, we had temperatures as low as 14 below zero here, and some of our trees haven’t fared so well through that cold weather,” said Mark Heckman of Heckman Orchards.

Heckman says he’s lost about 50 percent of his cherry crop at his family’s farm in Effort.

But that’s not all. His peach crop took a big hit too, about 75 percent.

Now the farm is forced to make cuts to make up the loss.

“Basically, we didn’t hire as many workers. Normally, we would hire more workers because we would need more people to help harvest the crop,” said Heckman.

Because of this year’s shortage, the owners at Heckman Orchards say they’re not going to allow customers to come in and pick cherries themselves. Instead all of their workers will pick the cherries and they’ll have them for sale at their market.

“No, I’m not surprised at all. We’re at least a month behind everything here. Our trees have just opened up,” said Regina Thomas of Lake Harmony.

Thomas says she loves to buy fruit at Heckman Orchards.

So does Jamie and her mother Dora Babayeva who is hearing impaired. Dora’s disappointed there won’t be any cherry picking this year.

“It was really harsh this winter and that’s really a shame since it’s usually so good here, and I like to support these fresh farms and stuff, and I wish there were more of them,” said Babayeava.

Heckman says the good news is he won’t pass on the loss to customers and raise prices.

Cherry picking should begin in about a week.

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