view current print edition







Stemilt’s Kyle Mathison orchestrates cherry harvest under a full moon


In the life of a cherry grower, it’s not every day that everything aligns just as you would want them to. However, for fourth-generation Stemilt cherry grower Kyle Mathison and his high-altitude Moon cherries, this year’s harvest is shaping up exactly the way he would prefer if he could have scripted it.

That’s because July 18 will have a full moon. This is the lunar phase that Mathison prefers to harvest his cherries under, as he finds the extra gravitational pull from the moon boosts his cherry trees' ability to deliver energy to the growing fruits in the form of carbohydrates. The result is jumbo-sized cherries with higher sugars, acids, and aromatics to deliver a memorable dessert eating experience.

“There’s no better time to harvest cherries than around a full moon,” Mathison, who has been farming cherries on Stemilt Hill in Wenatchee, WA, for more than four decades, said in a press release. “A full moon brings energy with it, and that energy pulls nutrients from the roots of cherry trees right into the fruit. The result is large and firm cherries that are truly world famous. Each cherry explodes with flavor when you bite into it.”Stemilt-Moon-Cherries--pouch-bag

Mathison just started harvesting cherries from his unique Amigos Orchards in Wenatchee, located 2,640 feet above sea level and higher, or literally a half mile closer to the moon. These cherries are the latest freshly harvested cherries in Washington state, and though coming off the tree earlier than they typically do, will still take Stemilt’s cherry harvest into early August. In a normal year where Washington cherries start in June, cherry harvest at Amigos would go into September.

The start of harvest at Amigos also signals the start of Stemilt’s A Half Mile Closer to the Moon cherry program, where premium cherries from high-altitudes are packed into specially marked pouch bags to offer retailers with a unique story to share with shoppers, and a grand finale to cherry season. This is the fifth year Stemilt has packed “Moon cherries.”

Named after the Spanish word for friends, the Amigos orchards overlook the Columbia River and town of Wenatchee not too far from the family’s original homestead on Stemilt Hill. In the cherry world, any orchard planted above 1,800 feet is considered high-elevation. Having already surpassed that height, Mathison began planting cherries at even higher elevations in 2002 in order to stretch the availability of Stemilt cherries.

New this year, Stemilt has a Moon cherry video to help retailers tell the farm to fork story of these special cherries with their shoppers on social and digital channels. The video features Kyle and West Mathison and the unique geography, farming practices, and unmatched passion Kyle has for growing Moon cherries.

Not only is his 2016 Moon cherry harvest aligning with the ideal lunar cycle, but the growing conditions all summer long have been a dream at Amigos. Mathison’s crop will produce jumbo-sized cherries with high firmness, sugars, acids and true dessert qualities.

“They are going to wow consumers,” Roger Pepperl, Stemilt marketing director, said in the release. “Sweetheart, Skeena and Staccato are the varieties grown by Kyle at Amigos, and all three have benefitted from near-perfect growing conditions this year. Warm but not hot days followed by cool nights and the added benefit of being fueled by Kyle’s prescription natural fertilizer made at his nearby compost farm result in fantastic cherries. We’re excited to deliver consumers with this final and memorable taste of Stemilt cherries through our branded A Half Mile Closer to the Moon program. It’s an exciting way to finish off another great cherry season.”