Cherry crop returns to the Valley

CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) -- Local cherry growers were ready for a bounce back season. Last year many of them did not have a crop.

Big, red bunches of sweet cherries blew in the steady breeze at the Mountain Brook Ranch on Auberry Road in Clovis. The winds of change are welcome at the decades-old ranch. Last year, the warm winter kept trees from producing fruit.

Howard Hooker said the past three years have been painful. Hooker explained, "We had a freeze that we lost the whole crop a couple of years ago. We had hail the year before."

But his son Brandon said the family's "you pick" ranch was ready to reopen on Tuesday. He said, "The kids like it. The families like it. It's good to experience for a few minutes to pick their own fruit and realize it just doesn't come from a store."

Howard added, "There's customers that come back year after year from as far as Los Angeles, San Francisco."

The sun may have been smiling on this year's crop, but like every other farm, water has remained a big concern. Some of the wells here were drying up so the family has topped their trees and chopped off branches in an effort to conserve.

Howard said, "We're trying to cut these trees and shrink them down to make a smaller compact tree and hopefully save water accordingly."

Ravens and starlings flying above knew the cherries were ready. They eat as much as 10 percent of the crop.

But Howard and Brandon Hooker were just happy to see their trees full of fruit. They'll soon be teaching folks how to pick cherries.

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