Since the “ripe” age of 4, Ashley and Shelby Gotelli have been working in the family cherry business. Their mother, Missy, would put them in cherry outfits and they would hand out samples, asking shoppers at farmers markets to “try a cherry.”
“Since the beginning, those three little words have been ingrained into our minds,” said Shelby Gotelli.
“Shelby and I would sometimes get bored with handing out samples and would build forts out of the cherry bins,” laughed Ashley Gotelli.
The sisters have come along way from building forts, and now manage the family’s cherry stands at several markets including Lodi’s Farmers Market. In addition, Shelby holds a degree in communications from Pepperdine University and Ashley is currently attending Paul Mitchell Skin Academy to become an esthetician.
Gotelli Farms is a family business, started in the 1920’s by their great-grandfather Joe, who created a partnership with his children, named Joe Gotelli and Sons. Today the business grows cherries in San Joaquin, Calaveras, and Tulare counties. The farming operation has also expanded into Washington, according to Ashley.
In 1993, Missy began selling the sweet, delicious cherries at farmers markets.
“We grew up in the Lodi community and being part of the Farmers Market we are able to reconnect with people we have known our entire lives and share our family’s history with them through our cherries,” said Shelby.
The sisters pointed out that Gotelli is truly a family operation and always has been. Each process of Gotelli Cherries has a direct influence of a family member, which makes their operation more personal and the consistently high quality of their fruit reflects that fact.
“We pick our cherries daily and then immediately put them into cold storage until they are loaded on the truck for the market. This ensures the utmost quality for our customers,” noted Shelby.
They grow numerous varieties of cherries including Bing — strong cherry flavor — Golden Rainer — yellow in color with a sweet taste, plus Brook and Coral.
“We also grow our own variety of cherries that we refer to as our specialty cherries,” said Ashley.
One of these, named Index, is her favorite cherry because of its large size and crunchiness.
Besides eating them fresh right from the tree, their favorite recipe for the fruit is Cherry Clafouti. It is a simple custard dessert made with cherries, sugar, eggs, flour and vanilla.
The Lodi Farmers Market crops up every Thursday, through Sept. 4, from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on historic School Street under the leadership of the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce and presenting sponsor Prime Shine Car Wash. For additional information contact the Lodi District Chamber of Commerce at 209-367-7840 or visit www.lodichamber.com.