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  • Kerry D. Krauss

Cherry Picking Season

The bigger cherry orchards to the south have begun to harvest this year’s crop. The land of Door County produces two things in abundance—cherries and rocks. I don’t know who decided that the Niagara Escarpment would be a great place to farm. Actually, I do know—they were Moravians. I don’t know who discovered what would grow well here. I imagine the processes of elimination and starvation both came into play.

Regardless, the cherry orchards are here and they are here to stay. Several cherry empires have come and gone, but the rows of finely pruned, cherry trees remain. The science behind any agro-business amazes me. Trees are planted, pruned, and groomed for a relatively short life cycle. Planters replace whole fields just as they begin to decline in order to maximize the years for new trees to reach maturity.

Cherry harvesters will soon move about the fields here. The machines move like dinosaurs from tree to tree. A canvas scoop fans out and cradles the entire tree. The harvester then shakes the tree allowing the ripened fruit to fall harmlessly into the webbed basket. Tree after tree, field after field the process is repeated twenty-four hours a day.

The cherries are washed, pitted, frozen, canned, pied, cobblered, jubilee-d, salsa-ed, vodka-ed, margherita-ed, French toasted, bratwurst-ed…you get the idea. The local restaurants have put cherries on and in everything imaginable.

The old-timers of Door County remember the days before mechanized harvesting. They spent hours upon hours reaching and stretching for bucket after bucket of cherries. They had no age limit. Everyone had a job during cherry picking season. The county would surge with migrant farm workers looking for work. Many fields in Door County still have the remnants of the cabins built specifically for the workers.

I’ve heard this story and it brings a tear to my eye. The end of the work day—if there was such a thing—would feature a family style meal for all the workers—the farmer, the farmer’s family, the local workers, the migrant workers, the German POW’s sent here during WWII—ALL of them sat together and ate together. In the middle of a World War everyone had a place at that table. In the middle of horrific violence and hatred and intolerance everyone had place at that table.

I know that it’s too much to ask to send the cherry harvesting machines away for a summer or two. I would gladly mask up, deal with the spiders, and pick cherries all day long so that I could witness a meal like that.

I love you.

I need you.

I hope for you.

Please be safe.

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10924 Old Stage Rd, Sister Bay, WI 54234

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