Cherry Hill Farms of Orem, Utah, now has orchards in Idaho, where they grow apples, peaches and a few tart cherries.
This family orchard business is also making the transition to the next generation.
Daniel Rowley is part of the fifth generation. His great-grandfather started their first orchards in Utah with a variety of fruit, including tart cherries.
Montmorency tart cherries became one of their biggest crops, along with several apple varieties. They started growing peaches about 20 years ago.
Tart cherries grow well in the northern Utah mountain climate that can get cold, whereas peaches sometimes struggle with early blooms if it’s still cold in the spring.
“My grandfather and my uncle and father ran those farms for many years and now we’ve expanded into Idaho,” said Rowley. He and his brother and cousin are managing the Idaho operation but still work closely with their uncle and father in Utah.
“We started here in 2012 by buying a farm in the Sunny Slope area (between Marsing, Wilder and Caldwell) that was already in fruit. We’ve continued to run that farm, plus we’ve bought and rented some ground that was not in orchards. We planted fruit and some of those young trees are now in production,” Rowley said.
“We’re focusing on peaches and apples. Young peach trees typically come into production in 3 or 4 years and apples come into production in 3 to 5 years, depending on the variety and how they do.”
The new orchards are thriving.
“We didn’t plant many new trees the first year but in 2013 we planted a lot. We were hoping for good production last year, but had some really bad weather. It was definitely not good for fruit trees. We’re hoping for a better year this year,” he said.
Sunnyslope is a good region for growing fruit, and most of theirs is sold wholesale through Mountain Land Apples, a packing co-op. “Our apples go all over the West via this packing facility in Idaho and the one in Utah. I’ve seen our apples in the Walmart store here where we do our shopping,” Rowley said.
Walmart promotes “buy local” programs and he feels this is a great help for the producers. Consumers know that the apples are local and fresh.
Most of the tart cherries his family grows are now dried and sold as a tart raisin-like product for snacks or baking. Montmorency tart cherries make a great tart-sweet snack, high in antioxidants, with many health-promoting benefits.
“They are a lot better than raisins, in my opinion, with more flavor, and can be marketed year-round and not just seasonally, like fresh fruit,” he said.
His great uncle and grandfather started drying cherries for this market in the 1980s when the pie-filling market started to decline. It was another way to market cherries year-round. “We harvest and freeze the cherries, then dry them all year long. It’s a 12-month process getting them all dried and to market.”
Rowley isn’t sure what the future holds for their orchards, or whether his family will be able to keep expanding.
“Land prices have gone up, and it’s hard to compete with houses. If the right ground comes along at the right price, we’ll consider buying more land, but for now we’re just focusing on growing fruit and making a sustainable business,” he said.
“I really like this lifestyle and having our families a part of it.” He and his wife have small children who are already learning about the farm.
“Whether they choose to continue to participate in farming and fruit, we don’t know yet, but we want to give them the opportunity to learn how to work, and do this as a life work if they want to,” Rowley said. “Agriculture is a great way for kids to grow up and learn a good work ethic.
“This is why I got into this — to enable my kids to be a part of it, and to be able to work with them close by me,” he said.