FORESTVILLE — Kevin Klohs’ bucket list included, well, picking up a bucket.
“I’ve always wanted to come to Door County and pick cherries,” he said. “So we packed up and drove over. We’re having a lot of fun. The kids, they’re loving it.”
Klohs, his wife, Brooke, and their children, Mason, 6, and Kaelynn, 3, recently spent an afternoon climbing ladders and filling buckets with Montmorency tart cherries hand-picked from lush trees at Cherry Lane Orchards.
The round-trip drive from their home in Seymour, a town just east of Eau Claire, to the Door County peninsula took about seven hours, but the experience was “definitely worth it,” Kevin said.
Tom and Holly Sayer are thrilled to see people flock each summer to the orchard they have owned for nearly two decades. Cherry Lane Orchards features about 1,100 cherry trees blanketing 12 acres. The pick-your-own cherry season typically runs anywhere from mid-July to mid-August.
“Picking cherries is a Wisconsin tradition, and we are privileged to be part of something so unique,” Tom said.
Cherry Lane Orchards is a member of Wisconsin Cherry Growers, Inc. According to the group, A.L. Hatch and E.S. Goff began planting cherry trees in Door County in 1896. By 1909, the cherries were receiving national attention, and the boom began.
To satisfy the growing demand, laborers were recruited and brought in by train and steamboat from as far away as Mexico and the Dominican Republic. During the war years, prisoners of war also assisted with the harvest.
During its glory years, Door County was known as Cherryland USA, growing 95 percent of the nation’s cherry crop. More than 10,000 acres of cherry trees were producing 50 million pounds of cherries, according to Wisconsin Cherry Growers.
Cherry Lane Orchards used to be a dairy farm before the previous owners planted cherry trees in the 1980s. The Sayers, originally from Minnesota, put their personal touch on the rural property just north of Forestville when they bought it.
“It’s a nice business, beautiful piece of property back here,” Tom said.
Over the years, the Sayers have collected 460 vintage cherry buckets and 150 ladders. Visitors carry the buckets into the orchard (some may drive if walking is an issue), where ladders are propped up against trees. Each bucket can hold about 10 pounds of cherries; one mature tree can yield roughly 100 pounds of cherries.
Holly said the cherries can be incorporated in a variety of recipes — one in particular she mentioned was caramelized salmon with cherry salsa.
“I just love making chopped cherry jam, pies and crisps,” she said.
Cherry Lane Orchards also features 1 acre of pick-your-own apple trees, including Honeycrisp, McIntosh, Cortland and Gala varieties. They will be ready in the fall.
For more about Cherry Lane Orchards, visit www.cherrylaneorchards.com.