STOCKTON — James Chinchiolo was just one of many San Joaquin County cherry farmers out on Monday inspecting their crops after Sunday’s storm.
“At this point, the weather definitely has made an impact,” Chinchiolo said.
Chinchiolo owns Lodi Blooms, a brand new, U-pick cherry farm that’s supposed to open Friday.
“When we’re seeing damage there isn’t a specific rhyme or reason. There may be a tree right next to a tree that has some damage and the other tree right next to it has nothing,” he said.
What he and others expected to be a huge harvest this year has been dampened by all the recent rain.
“I’m fourth generation and my dad, he’s third. He hasn’t seen a crop this big, I certainly don’t remember a crop this big,” he said. “So we certainly had thoughts this was going to be an extremely successful harvest. We still expect it to be successful but not to the degree that it was a few days before this rain.”
Chinchiolo says wet weather has already damaged 30% of his crop — and he’s not alone.
The San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation says there are more than 20,000 acres of cherry orchards in the county, making it a top 10 cash crop in the county.
Cherry harvesting season is just beginning but the bureau says it’s already been tough for farmers.
The cherries that are already ripe are soaking up all the moisture from the rain, causing them to split and even mold.
“We were expecting a very large crop and getting this late rain we’re kinda seeing what’s going to happen next. We’re kind of unsure right now,” Burge Road Farm owner Oscar Grado said.
Grado says while he’s seeing some splitting too, overall his late varietal crops are OK.
“The riper the fruit, the more susceptible it is to splitting when it rains, so ours are a little bit not quite ripe yet. So we’re kind of just crossing our fingers and hoping we’re going to be OK,” he said.
But Grado says other farmers aren’t so lucky and are scrambling to protect their harvest.
“For larger farmers, you’ll see helicopters coming around here. They get a lot lower to the trees and they try to blow off as much of the water as they can,” Grado told FOX40. “You’ll see farmers with their tractors going through with blowers trying to blow off as much of the water as they can.”
Chinchiolo says while he’s concerned there’s more rain the forecast, he’s looking on the bright side and says being a U-pick farmer can work in his favor.
“When we bring people in from the public, they’re able to pick the good cherries off and just take only the good cherries home with them,” he said. “So we actually see it as a plus overall that this is our first year that we’re opening it up to the public.”
The San Joaquin Farm Bureau Federation says the value of cherries fluctuates every season from $50 million to more than $150 million. They were expecting to top $150 million this year but now aren’t so sure what this year’s harvest will be valued at.