Returning to MIchigan after raising their family in Indianapolis, Sarah Hallstedt and her husband, Phil, purchased their 53-acre cherry farm in Northport, MI, in 2006 to pursue their dream of fruit farming. Relying on used equipment bought at auction and the kind advice of local growers and researchers at MSU like Nikki Rothwell, the Hallstedts slowly transformed 22 acres of decrepit old tart cherry trees into fertile ground ready for the planting of 9,500 sweet cherry trees in 2010-2012.
Along the way, Sarah, Phil, and their children put in countless hours and "buckets of sweat" as they readied the land for their dream farm. They describe the working weekends they spent over several summers as they traveled from their then-home in Indiana to Leelanau County — an 816-mile weekend commute.
"After the trees were pulled, pushed into piles and burned, our family trips up to Michigan became 'rock and roll vacations,'" Sarah remembers. "Affectionately dreaded by the kids, the 'rock' part of the trip began in the morning as we woke up, headed over to the orchard from Phil's parents’ home six miles away, and proceeded to walk shoulder-to-shoulder picking up rocks and leftover tree roots. 'Roll' came in the afternoon as we swam and sailed on local lakes."
Today their idyllic orchard is thriving, and they expect to handpick 100,000 pounds of sweet cherries this coming harvest. They offer eight types of premium sweet cherries starting in early July for u-pick, pre-pick, and direct ship from their trees right to your door! These modern varieties are larger and more flavorful than traditional varieties, and their short trees are more accessible and easier to pick. Perfect for their popular u-pick business.
Families can also sign-up for intimate one-hour education and u-pick tours in July and August if they want to learn more about the journey from corporate jobs to cherry orchardists and things like pollination habitats, high-density plantings, irrigation, integrated pest management, good agricultural practices, and the global trade of processed and fresh fruit.
On a side note, some Cherry Republic 'citizens' may remember, the Hallstedts provided fresh sweet cherries last summer to customers at our flagship store in Glen Arbor. We look forward to future collaborations (sweet cherry jam, anyone?) with this spirited, forward-thinking, and hard-working family. Stay tuned!
"We want to provide an orchard where others can create strong memories of sharing a bowl of cherries on a summer evening, track the progress of the orchard over a season, or even stop by and pick a handful of this amazing fruit right from the tree."