Bad cherry year leaves sour taste for fruit industry

It could be a devastating year for cherry growers and fruit processors here in Northern Michigan.

Over the past few months, the local agriculture community has been keeping a close watch over the crop. Unusually warm March temperatures caused local cherry trees to blossom early this year, and then a hard freeze came that wiped out most of the blooms before they could be pollinated.

Now farmers are projecting a huge drop in the cherry crop, creating big problems for many local businesses.

Great Lakes Packing, one of many cherry processors in Northern Michigan says the 200 employees usually hired during the summer months will have to look for another job.

Norm Veliquette, with Great Lakes Packing says, "If there is nothing to do, why stay open? We certainly would like to find an alternative, but this region is highly dependant on cherries."

Same goes for the approximately 300 seasonal employees at Cherry Growers Inc. Without cherries to make frozen juice, the company will have limited production.

The impact trickles down to businesses like Cherry Republic that use local cherries as its main ingredient in jelly, salsa, wine and other treats.

Bob Sutherland, Cherry Republic President says, "We're going to be sourcing cherries from Poland."

European cherries are definitely out of the norm for the hyper local business, but it's something that will have to be done to save jobs.

Sutherland says they plan to hang a Polish flag at the store and wear the country's crest as a fun way to pay tribute to Poland for helping them stay afloat this year.