Seaquists are Wisconsin’s largest tart cherry growers

Even when Jim Seaquist was a teen, he loved serving to his mother and father develop and harvest tart cherries. Again then, the Seaquists grew 180 acres of tart cherry timber close to the tip of Door County, Wis.

“My dad, who’s 90 now, labored tougher than anybody else, however he didn’t care to run the crew or do the workplace work,” Jim explains. “He doesn’t prefer to be bothered with particulars. However even at 16, I used to be open to working with the staff and paying the payments. I favored doing that.”

After graduating from highschool, Jim was desirous to be taught extra about rising fruit and obtained an affiliate diploma in horticulture at Michigan State College. He returned residence after commencement.

“I used to be simply 20 years outdated once I got here again within the spring of 1982,” Jim remembers. About that point, he started courting Robin.

“Once we first began courting, my mother stated, “I believed you had been going to go to high school and marry somebody regular,” Robin says, laughing.

In 1983, Jim turned a 50% proprietor within the enterprise. “We grew shortly after that,” he says. “We leased extra land, purchased extra land and planted extra timber.”

When Jim was 22, his mom died, and simply six months later, tragedy struck once more when a hearth destroyed his mother and father’ home.

“My dad [Dale] determined to construct a brand new home himself,” Jim says. “It took him 18 months, however he bought it finished.”

Associated:Wisconsin’s cream of the crop

Throughout that point, Dale shifted his focus to ending the home and relied on Jim extra to run the fruit enterprise.

In 1985, Jim and Robin married.

Jim says the variety of tart cherry growers in Door County was 700 in 1949. By the Nineteen Sixties, that quantity dwindled to 400. In the present day, he says, there are solely 9 tart cherry growers left in Door County, which is the one county within the state the place tart cherries are grown commercially.

In 1990, tart cherry costs had been low, and Jim joined a gaggle of growers with Farm Bureau making an attempt to arrange a tree pull.

“We had been going to tug a share of our timber out of the bottom to decrease manufacturing in an try to boost costs,” Jim says. “The tree pull failed, however I knew all the farms that wished to get out. In 1991, we had a widespread freeze.”

Increasing the enterprise

The Seaquists purchased and leased a number of orchards from growers trying to retire and from one giant grower who went bankrupt and had a cherry processing facility at Egg Harbor.

“Between 1990 and 1992, we actually tripled our manufacturing,” Jim says.

In 1992, Robin took over operating the workplace and doing the bookkeeping, which freed up Jim to handle workers and the enterprise. In the present day, their operation contains 4 separate firms:

Associated:Who’s who in Wisconsin agriculture, 2023 version

Seaquist Orchards LLC. The orchard contains 1,300 acres of tart cherry timber and 40 acres of apple timber. A farm store is managed by members of the family Zach Moore and Jeff Ehmke. They’re additionally concerned in planting, spraying and harvesting. The farm crew consists of Hispanic workers, a few of whom, like Rafeal Ramos and Enio Castillo, have labored there because the Eighties and are a part of the household, Jim says.

Seaquist Orchards Processing Inc. This enterprise contains the tart cherry processing plant the place they dealt with 11.7 million kilos of cherries in 2022.

Seaquist Canning Co. LLC. The canning firm features a recent apple packing line. “It additionally has a wholesale supply enterprise of our recent, canned and frozen merchandise,” Robin says.

Seaquist Orchards Farm Market LLC. The retail farm market in Door County is open from Could by way of November. An on-site bakery focuses on cherry pies.

“We’ve got 4 companies, however they’re all complementary of one another,” Jim says.

Full-time workers work on the canning firm, which operates year-round.

“Our oldest son, Cole, and his spouse, Lisa, handle the canning firm,” Jim says. “We shut down the canning firm the 4 weeks we do the cherry harvest, beginning the top of July. Once we are harvesting cherries, the processing plant goes 22 hours a day. We shut down two hours a day to wash every part.”

Jim’s sister Ann can also be a manufacturing supervisor on the canning facility and has run a cherry harvester for near 40 years.

Throughout the cherry harvest, Jim, Robin, Cole and their youngest son, Justin, take turns working on the plant. Considered one of them is at all times there through the four-week harvest. Complete workers high 125 throughout harvest.

The Seaquists make numerous Door County Cherry Pies at their bakery. In addition they make jams, cherry juice, apple juice, apple pies, applesauce and apple cider. They promote numerous cherries to wineries and to firms that make dried cherries.

“We purchase numerous apples for apple cider,” Jim says. “Cherry pies are our greatest vendor. We ship numerous jam, cherries and pies to space eating places, farm markets and grocery shops.”

They develop over 30 forms of apples. The harvest begins in August and finishes in late October. “Our apple harvest helps lengthen our rising season,” Jim says.

The Seaquists ship their merchandise across the nation. “We’ve got industrial clients who take a truckload of fruit,” Jim explains. “Robin handles numerous these gross sales and deliveries of fruit. Lisa and Cole promote and ship the smaller masses.”

Justin works with Jim and Robin within the processing plant.

“He takes that over extra,” Jim says. “Justin could be very concerned with meals security. He has a thoughts for complying with all the small print that drive me loopy.” Justin’s spouse, Kirstin, is supervisor at Ashbrooke Suites.

Jim says prior to now 20 years, they contemplate three years as being a crop failure.

“We retailer numerous our crop, so we didn’t endure too unhealthy financially,” he says. “We by no means wish to be in a state of affairs the place now we have two unhealthy years in a row take us out.”

Jim’s dad remarried in 1985. His spouse, Kristin, has been in command of the farm marketplace for the previous 35 years or extra.

“My dad likes to assist Kristin within the farm market,” Jim says. “He additionally stays busy slicing grass three to 5 days every week. He’s the tour information and he’s very pleased with the entire thing.”

“He’s been Jim’s greatest cheerleader over time,” Robin provides.

Jim serves on the Wisconsin Cherry Board and Cherry Business Administrative Board. He was board chairman of a Nationwide Cherry Cooperative from 2000 to 2021.

Grasp Agriculturists at a look

Jim and Robin Seaquist
Ages: 60 and 58
Location: Ellison Bay, Door County
Farming enterprises: Tart cherries, apples, processing plant, canning firm, farm market
Measurement of farm: 1,000 owned acres, 600 rented acres
Household: Sons Cole (Lisa) and Justin (Kirstin), six grandchildren

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