Thousands will flock to the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula this week to celebrate one of Michigan’s finest products – the cherry – at the National Cherry Festival.
People from all over the world gather together in Traverse City, Michigan – the Cherry Capital – to watch the famous Blue Angels fly, join the Cherry Queen and her court for a Princess Tea, sing along with famous musicians and most importantly buy and eat that most delicious Michigan fruit – the cherry.
However, the Cherry Festival is not only about flying, teas, musicians, or even the cherries themselves. The Festival is also meant to honor Michigan cherry farmers and their hard work. My own Momma grew up in Michigan’s cherry region, and her sister is still involved in the Cherry Festival after being crowned Cherry Queen many years ago. So it is from my own experience and observation when I say that generational cherry farmers pass on more than just sprawling cherry farms filled with emerald leaved and ruby fruited trees, they pass on something much more valuable – their enthusiasm for hard work.
Most of Michigan’s orchards are family owned and are tended with diligent, loving hands. In every season, cherry farmers can be found ceaselessly caring for their trees. During the winter, farmers carefully prune their trees to preserve the tree’s energy for cherry growing. During the deep nights of spring, ever-watchful farmers can be found tracking every dip in the temperature. Regardless of the hour, if the temperature drops too low, persistent farmers set up wind machines, sprinkling hoses, heating apparatuses, or use other means to try to mitigate frost damage. Once the threats of frost pass, farmers face the challenges of pest control, and the process of harvesting. On top of these annual challenges, excessive rain can cause the cherries to split, and excessive drought can stunt growth. Luckily for Michigan residents and cherry lovers, cherry farmers still refuse to give up.
The fruit of their steadfast labor constitutes nearly 20% of Michigan’s Agricultural production and accounts for 70-75% of national tart cherry production, and 20% of national sweet cherry production according to this Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development report. None of these significant percentages would be possible without the people willing to work hard and long to produce a product in which they believe.
It is for this ideal that free market fighters fight. The ideal that hard workers can cultivate and appreciate the value of their own hard work, and that if they so choose, these hard workers can exchange the products of their hard work for the products of other hard workers. Though the cherry industry itself is far from a perfect model, being beset with excessive penalties and regulations, it is the farmers that we look to for inspiration, and it is for their hard work and the work of others like them, that we will keep fighting for a better, freer Michigan.
But for now, thank you Michigan Cherry farmers. Enjoy a well-earned National Cherry Festival.
 Michigan Agricultural production was $13 billion according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s article “Facts About Michigan Agriculture.” According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s report “Michigan Specialty Crops” cherry production accounted for a total of $65.5 million in 2011, which is equivalent to 19.8% of the $13 billion agricultural output.