When Bob Sutherland founded Cherry Republic in 1989 in Glen Arbor, he was on a mission to support Leelanau County’s cherry farmers, who were having a bit of a rough go of it in the late ’80s. More than 30 years later, Cherry Republic is still intimately involved with local growers throughout the industry’s ups and downs. This spring, for instance, was a bit of a rollercoaster weatherwise, with unseasonably warm temps in April followed by a significant cold snap in May. Then as summer got underway, several weeks of near drought conditions were followed by heavy rains, which caused much of the fragile fruit to split.
But our farmers are nothing if not resilient, taking a glass-half-full philosophy no matter the circumstances. Case in point? The Glenn and Judy La Cross family in Suttons Bay, Michigan. Their family farm provides the fruit for Leelanau Fruit Company (also majority owned by the LaCrosss family), and their take on the 2021 cherry harvest was sunny despite the weather challenges they faced. “Our crop is a little smaller this year,” they shared, “but what is there is super sweet and super ripe, and it’s going to make really great jam!” And it’s those prized tart cherries that will be picked this week and crafted into Cherry Republic’s limited edition 2021 Montmorency Nouveau Preserves.
Bob stopped by the LaCross Farm over the weekend to take a tour of the orchard and taste-test some of those ruby red morsels of joy. Take a virtual tour of the orchard with him!