Norm and Marjory Veliquette pose with National Cherry Queen Meg Howard. (Gary Kaberle)

Norm and Marjory Veliquette pose with National Cherry Queen Meg Howard.
(Gary Kaberle)

The Michigan cherry industry handed out recognition awards to several people during the Northwest Michigan Orchard and Vineyard Show in Traverse City on January 22. The awards were given by the Cherry Marketing Institute and the National Cherry Festival.

Dr. Mark Whalon, Michigan State University entomologist, was recognized for his distinguished service by the Cherry Marketing Institute for his work helping growers adjust to the loss of azinphos-methyl. As he researched alternative pesticides, he was an advocate for AZM, maintaining it was more effective and environmentally a better choice than the reduced risk pesticide replacements.

Norm and Marjory Veliquette, of Kewadin, Michigan, were given the Very Cherry Promotion Award by the National Cherry Festival for their work in the cherry industry. Norm and other family members started the Great Lakes Packing Co. in 1972, where they process tart cherries into frozen pack and IQF products and handle brined sweet cherries as well.

Norm has been a leader in Rotary International’s program to eradicate polio from the world.

Bob Gregory

Bob Gregory

of Suttons Bay, co-owner with his brother Don of Cherry Bay Orchards, with more than 2,000 acres of sweet and tart cherries, was recognized as Cherry Person of the Year, a title he received at the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City last July.

Cherry Bay is part of a larger cooperative, Shoreline Fruit, which covers 6,000 acres of Montmorency sour cherries that annually produce 25 million pounds of the fruit (weather permitting). They have been pioneers in production and marketing of dried cherries and cherry juice concentrate.

Gregory took the opportunity to speak out for the tart cherry industry’s federal market order, which he called one of the three strong legs on the industry stool, along with the Cherry Marketing Institute (research and promotion) and CherrCo (marketing). Norm Veliquette was also instrumental in passing the first marketing order in 1972 and, after growers allowed it to lapse, in its reinstitution in 1996. In both cases, Gregory said, the growers passed marketing orders after disastrous prices of 3 cents a pound in 1972 and 5 cents a pounds in 1996. Cost of production is said to be around 26 cents a pound.

The lifetime achievement award was given to Whitney Lyon, 86, and his wife, Mary, who have grown cherries (and 10 children) at Island View Orchards on the Old Mission Peninsula in Grand Traverse Bay all of his life. The family farm was one of the first to enter the Peninsula Land Conservancy, to be protected from non-farm development in perpetuity. In recent years, they have planted vinifera grapes of several varieties.