Cherry pick your visit

Open­ing Fri­day, Lodi Blooms lets you pick your fruit

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Oula Miq­bel NEWS-SENTINEL STAFF WRITER

Lodi Blooms is a new “you pick” cherry or­chard started by James Chin­chi­olo, a fourth-gen­er­a­tion San Joaquin County farmer.

The or­chard is sched­uled to open for the sea­son at 11 a.m. Fri­day, and com­mu­nity mem­bers are en­cour­aged to come and pick their own cher­ries. There will be a $1 fee to en­ter the or­chard, but it can be used to­ward the price of a pound of cher­ries — $4.

There will be park­ing on site and mon­i­tors on the grounds will help peo­ple se­lect the best cher­ries.

Chin­chi­olo sat down with the NewsSen­tinel to dis­cuss his de­ci­sion to tran­si­tion into a you-pick cherry or­chard and the im­por­tance of adapt­ing to the mar­ket. Fol­low­ing is a lightly edited ver­sion of the interview.

Q: Where did the con­cept for a youpick cherry or­chard come from? A: The con­cept came from other grow­ers who have used this method of invit­ing the com­mu­nity to pick their own fruits and veg­eta­bles, and many farm­ers have had suc­cess with this and con­tinue to use this method for their farms.

Q: As a fourth-gen­er­a­tion farmer, what crops have you grown or plan to grow?

A: I have grown wal­nuts and cher­ries. We are look­ing to ex­pand into olives for olive oil.

Q: How does you-pick play into the pop­u­lar­ity of the farm-to-fork move­ment?

A: It fol­lows the mo­men­tum of farm-to-fork by get­ting the con­sumer to the or­chards and al­low­ing peo­ple to pick the cher­ries.

Q: Why did you choose to do this in Lodi?

A: I grew up in Mo­rada and I went to Tokay High School. My de­sire to cre­ate an open or­chard in Lodi comes from what I feel when I walk through the or­chard. I feel a tremen­dous sense of be­ing grounded and be­ing con­nected to Mother Na­ture, and I wanted to share that feel­ing. Q:

What do you think peo­ple will en­joy most about Lodi Blooms?

A: It is a fam­ily-friendly en­vi­ron­ment where fam­i­lies can en­joy the out­doors and fresh cher­ries. There re­ally isn’t any­thing bet­ter than tast­ing a freshly picked cherry off the tree.

Q: How im­por­tant is it for con­sumers to know where their pro­duce comes from?

A: I think there is a high level of im­por­tance to un­der­stand­ing the re­sources it takes to grow and know­ing where some­thing is sourced. It has be­come such a gen­er­a­tional thing, and I think peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate it more.

Q: What mo­ti­vated you to pur­sue this con­cept now?

A: What it re­ally amounts to is adapt­ing. I want to con­tinue to be a farmer, but be­cause of the in­creased cost of farm­ing and the lack of peo­ple that we can em­ploy to pick, we saw this as a vi­able tran­si­tion.

Q: How has the rain im­pacted your or­chard?

A: It has had min­i­mal im­pact on our or­chard. We have had some cher­ries split be­cause of the rain­fall, but there is still a large num­ber of good cher­ries to pick. By al­low­ing peo­ple to come in and pick their own cher­ries they can see what looks good and what doesn’t.

Q: Why is a heavy rain­fall detri­men­tal for cherry grow­ers?

A: When we get too much rain — es­pe­cially late rain — cher­ries will split. This hap­pens be­cause cher­ries are por­ous like our skin, so when it rains they ab­sorb the wa­ter and ex­pand like a bal­loon un­til they split open.

Q: When is pick­ing sea­son for cher­ries?

A: It typ­i­cally starts in the mid­dle of May un­til the mid­dle of June.

BEA AHBECK/NEWS-SENTINEL

James Chin­chi­olo, owner of Lodi Blooms, a new “you pick” cherry or­chard, poses for a por­trait in his or­chard in Lodi on Wed­nes­day. The busi­ness will open Fri­day.

BEA AHBECK/NEWS-SENTINEL

James Chin­chi­olo, owner of Lodi Blooms, a new “you pick” ven­ture, shows a branch full of ripe cher­ries at the or­chard in Lodi on Wed­nes­day. The busi­ness will open Fri­day.

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