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Door County watching cherry trees amid threatening warm weather

How warm temperatures could effect one of Door County's most important crops
Posted at 6:00 PM, Feb 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-27 19:13:25-05

DOOR COUNTY (NBC 26) — With unseasonably high temperatures in late February, there is concern among cherry growers for their crops this season if the weather continues.

  • Video shows Robertson Orchards in Sturgeon Bay
  • Skipp Robertson says higher temperatures in February could cause the trees to bloom early, leaving them vulnerable to coming frosts.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Many people get excited when warm weather hits in February in Northeast Wisconsin — but not everyone.

I’m your Door County neighborhood reporter Katlyn Holt with why these spring temperatures have some worried.

Skipp Robertson is a fifth-generation farmer in Door County.

"Take the ups and the downs. Mother Nature's going to do what she wants," said Robertson.

Today, he says there are more than 1,000 cherry trees here. It's success built on hard family work but also dependent on the weather. Robertson says he remembers when it warmed up early in 2012.

"Across the orchard there were probably 20 pounds of cherries," said Robertson.

"What's normal?" I asked him.

"Add a couple zeros to that," Robertson laughed.

Skipp says higher temperatures in February could cause the trees to bloom early, leaving them vulnerable to coming frosts.

"If that were to happen, and we get a cold snap again, we would be facing another 2012," said Robertson. “There's lots you can do. But there's too many trees to do [protect the trees] with."

That year, farmers saw a much smaller crop, down by millions of pounds.

Jon Jarosh with Destination Door County says warm temperatures are nice, but agriculture is so important to the county.

"Cherries certainly are something that Door County is known for and so anytime there's a potential decrease in the amount of cherries available, that is a concern that we have," said Jarosh.

The state Department of Agriculture says Wisconsin cherry growers' fruit had a value of $2.6 million in 2022, with most growing right here in Door County.

Jarosh says he doesn't think a smaller harvest would stop visitors, but it could limit activities.

Skipp says it's not just about the harvest but the pleasure he gets sharing his farm with everyone.

"It makes me feel good as a person knowing that I was able to share my farm with everybody," said Robertson.

Robertson Orchards hopes, weather permitting, to be ready for pick-your-own cherries the first week of July.