A new inventory of the Michigan sweet and tart cherry industry has been compiled, based on a census of commercial fruit farms conducted in 2011.
The inventory found 400 farms growing sweet cherries and 450 growing tart cherries. The number of farms growing cherries fell over the last five years, with sweet cherry farm numbers falling from 470 to 400 and tart cherry farm numbers declining from 540 to 450.
Michigan is the nation’s largest production of tart cherries. There were 32,000 acres of them at the end of 2011, unchanged from the last inventory conducted in 2006. Acreage declines in southwest and west central Michigan were offset by increases in the northwest. More than half the state’s acreage is located in six counties surrounding the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan.
The largest single tart cherry-producing county is Oceana, located in west central Michigan, where 7,900 acres are growing. Leelanau County has the second most tart cherry acres, 7,800.
Between 2007 and 2011, 4,500 new acres of tart cherries were planted.
Sweet cherry trees were growing on 7,200 acres at the end of the year, down 300 from the last inventory conducted in 2006. There were 720 acres of sweet cherries planted since then.
Of the land in sweet cherries, 69 percent was located in two northwest Michigan counties, Leelanau with 3,450 acres and Grand Traverse with 1,500. The top three varieties are Gold, Emperor Francis, and Ulster, accounting for 58 percent of the acres.
The survey was conducted by the Michigan field office of the National Agricultural Statistics Service. The fruit survey covers all fruits and berries, and the cherry report is the first to nearly a dozen that will be published.