To an out-of-state visitor, the rolling hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley are simply a beauty to the eye. But
nestled along the Columbia River Gorge
lies an abundance of orchards, where the
marriage of warm days and cool nights
produces a delectable treat: fresh cherries.
Starting out with only 700 rootings,
Oregon Cherry Growers has since evolved
across generations of dedicated growers
into a worldwide supplier of sweet cherries. In fact, with more than 60 family
growers in its co-op, OCG proudly wears
the title of the largest processor of sweet
cherries in all of North America — with
Chelan, Sweetheart and Bing as just a few
of the 21 varieties grown.
OCG has three facilities; two in The
Dalles and one in Salem. The downtown
facility does the pitting and the vacuum
pan ice cream cherry, while the Riverside
facility is primarily used for infusion, dry-
ing and freezing. The Salem processing
plant is responsible for the co-op’s mara-
schino, glacé, and some ice cream ingre-
dient cherries. And with its approximate
450 workers, OCG is the second-largest
employer in The Dalles.
With a name like Oregon Cherry
Growers, though, customers may be quick
to assume that only cherries are produced
— but families of the co-op also grow
blueberries, blackberries, strawberries,
marionberries, raspberries, saskatoons,
and even some vegetables like sweet
potatoes, rhubarb and squash.
A Rich History
Oregon Cherry Growers was founded in
1984 as a result of two merging coopera-
tives — The Dalles Cherry Growers and
Willamette Valley Cherry Growers.
While OCG is a part of the Northwest
Cherry Growers, its orchards are all located throughout the Willamette Valley — the
phenomenal fertile grounds between
Portland and Eugene, Ore.
The Northwest Cherry Growers region
runs East of Portland into The Dalles, following along tightly to the Columbia River
Gorge, and then up into Washington.
“We’ve got two very different growing regions; which is ideal,” Dan Ostlund,
director of business development, said.
While there is no average time of harvest, the season generally runs between
June and August, according to OCG VP of
Sales and Marketing Kent Spalding.
Ostlund said the interesting thing about
OCG is it tends to be more independent
family farms as opposed to big corporations. “A lot of farming has become a
By Kari Imberg, Associate Editor
A Leader In Its Field
With more than 60 family growers in its co-op, Oregon Cherry Growers
is the largest processor of sweet cherries in North America.