Lodi Blooms is a new “you pick” cherry orchard started by James Chinchiolo, a fourth-generation San Joaquin County farmer.
The orchard is scheduled to open for the season at 11 a.m. Friday, and community members are encouraged to come and pick their own cherries. There will be a $1 fee to enter the orchard, but it can be used toward the price of a pound of cherries — $4.
There will be parking on site and monitors on the grounds will help people select the best cherries.
Chinchiolo sat down with the News-Sentinel to discuss his decision to transition into a you-pick cherry orchard and the importance of adapting to the market. Following is a lightly edited version of the interview.
Q: Where did the concept for a you-pick cherry orchard come from?
A: The concept came from other growers who have used this method of inviting the community to pick their own fruits and vegetables, and many farmers have had success with this and continue to use this method for their farms.
Q: As a fourth-generation farmer, what crops have you grown or plan to grow?
A: I have grown walnuts and cherries. We are looking to expand into olives for olive oil.
Q: How does you-pick play into the popularity of the farm-to-fork movement?
A: It follows the momentum of farm-to-fork by getting the consumer to the orchards and allowing people to pick the cherries.
Q: Why did you choose to do this in Lodi?
A: I grew up in Morada and I went to Tokay High School. My desire to create an open orchard in Lodi comes from what I feel when I walk through the orchard. I feel a tremendous sense of being grounded and being connected to Mother Nature, and I wanted to share that feeling.
Q: What do you think people will enjoy most about Lodi Blooms?
A: It is a family-friendly environment where families can enjoy the outdoors and fresh cherries. There really isn’t anything better than tasting a freshly picked cherry off the tree.
Q: How important is it for consumers to know where their produce comes from?
A: I think there is a high level of importance to understanding the resources it takes to grow and knowing where something is sourced. It has become such a generational thing, and I think people appreciate it more.
Q: What motivated you to pursue this concept now?
A: What it really amounts to is adapting. I want to continue to be a farmer, but because of the increased cost of farming and the lack of people that we can employ to pick, we saw this as a viable transition.
Q: How has the rain impacted your orchard?
A: It has had minimal impact on our orchard. We have had some cherries split because of the rainfall, but there is still a large number of good cherries to pick. By allowing people to come in and pick their own cherries they can see what looks good and what doesn’t.
Q: Why is a heavy rainfall detrimental for cherry growers?
A: When we get too much rain — especially late rain — cherries will split. This happens because cherries are porous like our skin, so when it rains they absorb the water and expand like a balloon until they split open.
Q: When is picking season for cherries?
A: It typically starts in the middle of May until the middle of June.