GILROY (KPIX 5) — Unusually heavy rain for the month of May is making cherry growers in Santa Clara County nervous.

“These are Bing cherries, they’re the big ones, the best tasting,” said Bill Christopher of Christoper Ranch in Gilroy. Christopher came out to check on his cherry orchards after Wednesday morning’s downpour.

“This one has a little bit of color to it,” Christopher said while examining a branch filled with green and pink cherries. “This one has a good chance of cracking.”

Drops of rain on cherries that are already starting to ripen (CBS)

Christopher, whose family has been growing cherries on their ranch on Bloomfield Road, says rain on ripening cherries could ruin them by causing them to split. Many of the cherries on the trees were still dripping with water after the storm.

“Some cherries that are still a little bit green, they’re going from green to white, they could be OK,” he said.

But it’s the pink and the red ones he’s worried about. Some growers are already lining up helicopters that can be hired to hover low over the crops, to blow-dry them over the next few days of wet weather.

“It’s really tough over the last three years, we’ve had no crop at all because of the winter weather. And now we finally have a crop, and we wake up and it’s raining, and the crop that we’ve worked for all year could be a disaster. It’s really disheartening,” Christopher said.

About a thousand acres of cherries are grown in the Gilroy area. In good years, the crop can be worth two to three million dollars.

“It’s pretty good!” said Larry Bryan of Vallejo who stopped at a roadside fruit stand to buy a bag of cherries and was sampling them. “Let’s hope it isn’t too bad, otherwise the prices are just
going to keep going up,” he said.

“And the farmers are losing their profit,” said his wife Janet. Christopher is hoping the damage won’t be too bad. But if the rain keeps hitting ripening fruit, about half of what is grown could be unusable.

“We’ve been in this business a long time, things can change in a hurry and we’ll just roll with those punches.”

Christopher said the rain could also be causing cosmetic damage to some of the early garlic that’s grown in the Gilroy area. White garlic cloves could be stained by the moisture, but should be otherwise be safe to use.

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