BRENTWOOD -- This year's cherry crop is light and sweet and the season will be short, according to far East County fruit growers.
Local farmers are guessing that a warm winter, less spring rain and a lack of severe winter weather produced smaller quantities of summer fruit, but it is of good quality. Harvest Time President Ken Hagan said that all of the summer crops will arrive about seven to 10 days ahead of schedule, including the popular Brentwood sweet corn later this summer.
"Area wide, the total yield is down. Now, that could be climatic issues, but the quality is extremely good," he said. "Everything is a little sweeter this year."
Hagan currently sells blackberries and apricots in addition to cherries at Bacchini's Fruit Tree. He said that crowds from the Bay Area are already trekking down here for the early U-pick offerings.
"There are a lot of people interested in cherries now," Hagan said. "We might run out. I have a feeling that it (cherry crop) will go quickly."
Typically, U-pick enthusiasts descend upon far East County's farms one week before Memorial Day weekend for fruit picking. Last weekend, the U-pick rush began early at many local produce stands and farms.
"There are a lot of early crowds. The early varieties (cherries) should be pretty sweet as well," said Brentwood farmer Ron Enos of the cherries. "It is a very light crop, but it is very nice."
Harvest Time Vice President Sean McCauley said that the cherry season will likely continue for the next 40 to 50 days. He added that they expect about 200,000 people to visit the local farms this summer.
"The fruit came in early, but it hasn't sweetened up yet," McCauley said.
Harvest Time officials are launching their updated website this week at www.harvest4you.com. It provides visitors with the seasonal produce stand trail map, farm finder and a growers' season calendar.
In March, the city of Brentwood provided Harvest Time with $21,760 in agricultural grant funding to print the annual maps of area produce stands and overhaul its website. City leaders are confident that this will promote agricultural tourism locally and bring area farms into the 21st century.
Reach Paula King at 925-779-7174 or email@example.com.