Cherries: From Tree to Truck

A mini-documentary.

I need to start off by saying that I didn’t do a mini-documentary about the cherry harvest process because I felt the world had a need for such information. I did it as an exercise, as practice using my video camera and Final Cut Pro. I wanted to see if I had the ability to put together a documentary. This 5-minute video is the result.

This was my second summer experiencing the harvest process at one of the orchards I dry. The Schroeders are great people, friendly and a pleasure to work with. I dried their orchard four times this year. Being present for part of the harvest gave me an opportunity to see whether the work I’d done made a difference. It did.

The Schroeders were kind enough to let me walk the orchard and packing shed area with my Sony Handycam for a total of about 8 hours over two days. I also stopped in around sunset one evening to take some of the establishing shots with the soft “golden hour” light. They and their workers explained the process to me. I shot a total of about an hour of video footage. That that was barely enough. I still wish I’d gotten better shots of some parts of the process.

I found the cherry harvest fascinating — and I think you might, too. We’re all spoiled — we go into the supermarket in the summertime and find cherries waiting in the produce section, already bagged and ready to take home. But how many of us consider how the cherries get from the tree to the supermarket? It’s a complex process that requires hundreds of people and specialized equipment. This video shows part of the story, following the cherries from the trees in one orchard as they’re picked, gathered, chilled, and packed into a refrigerator truck. Take a moment to see for yourself:

Done? Not bad for a first serious effort.

From this point, the cherries go to the processing plant in Wenatchee, WA. They’re run through more cold water and lots of custom equipment before they’re picked through by several lines of people who toss out the bad ones. Then they’re sorted by size, run through more clean water, and eventually bagged and boxed up by even more people for shipment. I was fortunate enough to get a tour of that facility (and five more pounds of fresh cherries) a few days after I shot the video for this one. I may do a video of that facility and its process next year.

The amazing part of all this: the cherries are normally ready to ship to stores the same day they are picked.

More amazing stuff: the cherries I saw at the packing facility were headed for Korea and would be there within 18 hours of my tour. Whoa.

The point of all this is that there’s a lot that goes into getting fresh food into stores. Cherries are unlike many fruits — they have a very short shelf life. With proper care, they might last a week. That’s why everything is rushed and why so much effort is put into keeping them cool as soon as they’re picked.

I hope you enjoyed this. Comments are welcome.

19 thoughts on “Cherries: From Tree to Truck

  1. Great video Maria! Let’s not forget about a certain helicopter pilot that made sure there were dry cherries to pick in the first place! :-)

    Years ago it would have taken over $100,000 in video equipment to produce such a high quality video. Well done!

  2. @Paul B
    That’s what amazes me most. My setup — including 2-1/2 year old computer, admittedly costly software, and consumer HD camera — cost about $3500. But someone could easily do the same with a setup costing less than $2K. What a long way we’ve come!

  3. Beautifully done and interesting to watch. You’ve widened my appreciation of the whole process of fruit growing and distribution and all the hands and hearts it takes to make this process happen.

  4. I enjoyed that – good job! You have a great voice – perfect for this. How many hours did you spend editing?

  5. I take a lot of underwater video, and that video is first class! And that soothing voice! Watch out Mike Rohe!

  6. @Cheryl Vonn
    Thanks! I’m a little self-conscious about my voice and east coast accent, so your comments really make me feel good.

    I spent about 8 hours editing to get my first cut, then another 4 hours to get the final cut with titles and music soundtrack. That includes the time spent figuring out how to do the opening titles with the video inside the words.

  7. Mike roe is the “Dirty Jobs” guy on the Discovery Channel. Keep up the great work. Have a great summer.

  8. Thank you very much for the opportunity to appreciate the fruit growing in different continent.

    Although I must admit that your voice is not at all grumpy as your picture looks!! Disclaimer: I am joking only.

    best regards.

  9. Awesome video! Your voice is a natural delight- very easy on the ear and you enunciate so well! Makes the price we pay in the store seem a pittance- can’t wait for the followup video! For 33 years I had mango, avocado, and ruby red grapefruit trees in my yard in So Florida- I delight in being in Arizona now and retired with no trees to care for. We seldom realize just how much work is involved in bringing fresh food to our corner markets.
    Thank you!!

  10. I agree with the previous posters who commented about your quality of your voice in the very professionally done and interesting video! As for your “East coast accent,” I knew you when you were on the east coast, and, truthfully, I didn’t even recognize your voice! Great job.

  11. @Mark
    Thanks, Mark! I’m hoping to do one about the cherry packing process next year. I had a tour of the plant a few weeks ago. Slight chance they’ll let me come in and do one for apple packing; they have a line for that, too, and I might still be around.

  12. Great job! FWIW, one thing I’d enjoy next time is a little more variety: maybe a greater range of angles, maybe some more examples of the sounds you encountered, maybe a few closeups and interviews. But I enjoyed it thoroughly and hope you’ll do more such. Slick, smart, and very informative.

  13. Maria,

    Great documentary and please don’t be self conscious about your voice. You voice is very melodic and certainly does the job.

    It’s amazing how far camera technology has come. If you haven’t seen this take a look.

    It’s shoot entirely on an iphone 4. No color grading or effects were added but the film makers did use an owle bubo camera mount for the iphone which allowed them to add an external microphone and use different lenses.

What do you think?