Good Fruit Grower

May 15

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32 MAY 15, 2016 Good Fruit Grower W ith an edge of defi ance and a wink of humor, Bruce Frost grows cherries where cactus and oranges have better odds. In the face of years of drought, salty ground water and poor winter chill, the Bakersfi eld, California, orchardist believes he can get his trees to hit the high-priced early market before Northwest growers swoop in and dom- inate the rest of the summer. "I'm a typical farmer," said Frost, owner of Acorn Farms, an orchard at the base of the arid Tehachapi Mountains so warm he cools with overhead sprinklers in the winter. "I think I can do better than any farmer, and I'm willing to go broke trying to prove it." A promising bloom and healthy water sup- ply have California cherry growers optimistic about 2016. Growers are predicting a crop of about 7.5 million 18-pound boxes, according to unoffi cial preseason estimates. But that's in contrast to the past two years, when orchardists, especially those south of Fresno, have been struggling. Overall, 2014 was the worst recent year for sweet cher- ries, when growers shipped only 2.7 million 18-pound boxes; 2015 was better with 5.9 mil- lion boxes, but still well short of the nine-year Centerpiece California cherry growing conditions are tough, but growers are tougher. by Ross Courtney photos by TJ Mullinax optimism Cherry Bruce Frost walks between new and older cherry plantings on his ranch, Acorn Farms, near Bakersfi eld, California, in March. His ranch

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