Hallstedt Homestead

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do cherries grow well in Michigan?

The first factor is Lake Michigan, which functions as a temperature moderator for nearby crops. As water temperatures fluctuate throughout the year, they also have a drastic impact on inland climate. For instance, the lake slows temperature warm-ups during the spring, which helps delay cherry blooms. This delay is crucial. It helps prevent situations where cold overnight temperatures or other remnants of winter weather damage the vulnerable blossoms.

The second factor is the soil, which is dry, light, and sandy. Sandy dirt which can deliver water to the cherry trees but still drains much more quickly than heavier clay soils to keep the roots from getting saturated.

Third is topography. The rolling hills of northern Michigan’s two peninsulas concentrates cold air in the valleys. This allows for warmer temperatures at higher elevations.

What is the difference between tart and sweet cherries?

Flavor and uses. Sweet cherries are often eaten fresh as a snack. They are mostly sold fresh in supermarkets during the summer and are harder to find when out of season. Tart cherries, on the other hand, are often dried, pressed into cherry juice or concentrate, or frozen and can be easily found and enjoyed year-round. Tart cherries are commonly used in baking and cooking because of their tart taste, making them the preferred cherry for cherry pies.

What happens to the cherries I don’t pick?

Another family may come behind you and clean up! Or, if no one picks them, they eventually dry up on the branch and become what we call mummies. We don’t want the fruit to stay on the trees, because it attracts such unsavory characters as the “spotted wing drosophila”, an Asian fruit fly that digs and deposits eggs into the fruit.

What is the difference between sustainable and organic farming?

Sustainable farming is focused on the physical treatment of the land, whereas organic farming is focused on the inputs used in production.  Sustainable farming attempts to greatly decrease the use of fossil fuels so there is heavy focus on producing goods and distributing them locally. This helps decrease the transportation costs, both economically and environmentally, and helps enhance the understanding of consumers about where their food comes from.  Organic farms must be certified by the USDA based on certain guidelines. The guidelines are that crops must be rotated and planted in different fields each year to replenish and maintain the nutrients in the soil. Cover crops, which are crops planted during off seasons, must also be used to maintain soil quality. Farmers cannot use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, nor can they use crops that are genetically modified. The other major element that differs between organic and sustainable farming is the distance food travels before consumption. Organic farming does not consider how far food travels before it reaches your plate. In organic farming, the use of fossil fuels does not matter. While our cherries are not organically grown, we too use cover crops, produce the fruit and distribute it locally, and minimize the use of chemicals to the best of our ability.

Is it hard to grow cherries? What are the top concerns?

Our biggest concern is the weather, particularly frosts in the spring and heavy rain right before harvest. If we have a “nice warm day or two” early in the season and the trees bloom, a later frost can kill the delicate flowers and wipe us out for the year in a matter of hours. Too much rain too quickly can cause the skins to crack, and the cherries degrade very quickly after that. Other issues are pests – bugs that eat or lay eggs in the fruit. Fungus. Animals – deer and mice like to eat the bark of the tree, usually more so in the winter. Birds – love to swoop down and have a tasty breakfast.

How do you know when the cherries are ripe?

By size, color and most importantly, sugar content, also known as “brix”. We measure the brix with a handheld refractor (Sarah calls it the “brix-o-meter) that shows how much sugar is the juice squeezed out of a cherry.

How long will cherries last, and how should I store them?

As for storing, cherries like to be cold, so store them in the fridge. Kept cold and dry (don’t wash them before storing), they’ll keep for up to two weeks, possibly more. But who lets cherries sit uneaten for that long?

What is it like to live on a farm? Do you own your farm?

Until almost six years ago, I could not have told you an answer to that question! We had neither lived on farms, nor were we farmers! We bought this property in 2006 and love waking up to a majestic sunrise settling in over the trees and walking to our work. That said, it feels more like a lifestyle than “work” ~ we both love tending to the orchard, flowers, and vegetables, and inviting people in to see what makes the farm tick. We are passionate about educating and will answer questions until folks have no more. Our days are fluid such that we must be able to respond to changes in weather and influxes of customers.

How are cherries good for you?

Cherries are packed with nutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They are also high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, which may reduce chronic disease and promote overall health. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that cherries may improve athletic performance, benefit heart health (due to potassium and polyphenol antioxidants) and reduce inflammatory concerns such as gout and arthritis.

Do you ship to my state?

We ship to all states except California and Hawaii. We cannot ship to PO boxes.

When do you ship?

We ship every Tuesday during the season so that fruit is not sitting in a warehouse over a weekend. We use Fed Ex so that shipments should arrive within 48 hours of shipping. We have received very positive feedback on the quality of cherries shipped in this manner.