Utah fruit growers hosted several key online influencers, Utah lawmakers, and other industry stakeholders to a one-of-a-kind orchard and cherry processing plant tour. The event was part of a nationwide “Buy U.S.-grown tart cherries” marketing campaign funded by a Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Specialty Crop Block Grant, and organized by the Utah Red Tart Cherry Marketing Board (URTCMB) and Cherry Marketing Institute (CMI).

Digital influencers attending the tour Jennifer Hadfield, Sandra McCollum, Rebecca Clyde, Chef Bryan Woolley, Rachael Yerkes, and Aimee Berrett. Also attending was Brandon Gordon (Utah County Commissioner), Rep. Doug Welton (Utah State House of Representatives), Craig Buttars and the leadership team from the Utah Dept. of Ag & Food, staffers from Senator Mitt Romney's office, Utah Farm Bureau, Western AgCredit, and Amy Joi O'Donoghue from the Deseret News

Influencer Rachael Yerkes of the Eazy Peazy Mealz website takes a turn on the cherry shaker.

During the tour, the influencers, lawmakers, and other attendees saw first-hand the entire process of how Utah grown cherries are harvested, then processed into a finished product that will be enjoyed by consumers throughout the year. The tour also provided Utah growers and processors the opportunity to share the hard work it takes and the many challenges they face in producing a high-quality U.S.-grown product.

The U.S. tart cherry industry has been overwhelmed by cheap foreign imports that have caused record low prices, putting many American multi-generational farming operations out of business. These excessively cheap imported cherries are generally subsidized by their governments to offer a product that can be brought into the U.S. at an unfairly low price and sold below the cost of production for Utah farmers, putting their farms and businesses in jeopardy.

UDAF Commissioner Craig Buttars (left) and Deputy Commission Kelly Pehrson (center) visit with farmer Tod Rowley.

Grower Ryan Rowley also wanted to make sure those attending knew of the environmental care and concern shared by local farmers, in addition to the business reasons behind what they do.

"There’s no better environmentalist than the farmer,” Rowley said in an article in the Deseret News. “No one cares more about the water, soil ... than farmers. Our 160 acres of open space improves the quality of life in this family, this area. As stewards of this land, we want to make good use of it.”

The tour group in front of the cherry processing facility at McMullin Orchards in Payson.

The tour was just the beginning of a year-long marketing campaign to educate consumers on how to identify Utah tart cherry products in the marketplace, and to encourage the purchase of U.S.-grown tart cherries over foreign imported products.