Cherry Harvest teaser

Cindy Walters picks cherries in an Old Mission Peninsula orchard owned by Raymond "Rocko" Fouch, a fourth-generation cherry farmer who opened his orchard for picking after having to dump 17,600 pounds of tart cherries he had already harvested.

TRAVERSE CITY — Sixteen tanks equal 17,600 pounds of tart cherries and more than 300 Facebook comments.

When Nick Fouch posted a photograph of 16 tanks of tart cherries from his father’s North Farm lying on the ground, it drew a big response.

In less than a week since the Aug. 7 post, there have been 320 comments and 660 shares about the 16 tanks of tart cherries that didn’t make the cut for use in a high-end juice product.

“This thing has blown up; it’s absolutely blown up,” said Raymond “Rocko” Fouch, a fourth generation cherry farmer on Old Mission Peninsula.

The elder Fouch said he decided to dump the cherries on the ground because it “takes 25 cents a pound to raise cherries” and he can only make 10 cents a pound “if you can find a home” for the product.

Some of the problems with tart cherries are there is a surplus from previous years before the shaking process begins in mid-summer. Fouch added farmers have a lot of money into the crop — like a spray bill that can top $50,000 annually — before processors set a price.

“We’re on the hook for all the costs,” Rocko Fouch said. “All the farmers are in the same position. We’re like lambs going off the cliff.”

Rocko Fouch said the Facebook thread has been a great place for a discussion on the current state of cherry farming. Fouch added he tried to keep up with every post and “to like every comment, just so people know you care,” but that he was unable to keep up with the pace.

“I just want a conversation to be started here; a real conversation,” he said.

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