Orchard View Cherries Harvests Its Cherry Century

Don Bailey, giving a ride to two of his four sons, Bob and Ken, joined his father’s orchard operation, Orchard View Cherries, prior to 1940. Today, Don’s granddaughter, Brenda Thomas, is president, and her team now manages over 3,500 acres of cherries in the Pacific Northwest.
Originally printed in the August 2023 issue of Produce Business.

Orchard View Cherries, located in The Dalles, OR, is celebrating its centennial crop in 2023. Honoring that commitment, the Oregon Farm Bureau has deemed Orchard View as an Oregon Century Farm and will present this designation at the Oregon State Fair at the end of August.

There are three key factors that have set Orchard View Cherries apart for 100 years, says Brenda Thomas, president.

“First, our strong roots in the orchard — we’re dedicated to the land we’ve sowed for 100 years, ensuring its prosperity for the next 100,” Thomas says. “Second is our community support, which includes everyone who has touched our grounds, from our long-term employees and those who return each season, our neighbors in The Dalles and the Oregon cherry community.”

“Third, and above all,” she adds, “it’s our unwavering commitment to cherries. Specializing in fruit has allowed us to focus on perfecting our craft to deliver the best cherries possible to the market.”

Orchard View was established by Thomas’ great-grandparents in 1923. Over the years, the operation evolved to specialize in the true craftsmanship of cherries — and only cherries. Thomas’ team now manages over 3,500 rain-shadowed acres along the Columbia River, with cherries planted in microclimates suited to each variety. Growing both red and blush cherries, each is carefully staged to assure the best cherry available at any given time is the one delivered to stores.

Over the next 10 years, Orchard View’s primary goal is to consistently deliver high-quality cherries by expanding and refining its offerings. “This year, we’re doing so by introducing newer cherry varieties like Pearl series and Royal series,” says Thomas, who started in the orchards as a youngster, helping with various tasks like moving irrigation pipes, planting trees and cutting sprouts.

“I can hear my dad and grandfather in my head — they always instilled in me to never give up. Even in the face of challenges, just control what you can control.”

“My great-grandfather would be amazed to see how the farm has transitioned,” she adds. “Back then, the majority of our cherries were processed while fresh fruit was a delicacy. Now, everyone is used to an abundance of fresh produce in their supermarket. It’s been a significant and successful shift for the business, and I know he would be proud.”

It’s about making the right decisions in the moment that will pave the way for future success, Thomas emphasizes.

“We know the importance of understanding all aspects of the business, especially during the fast-paced cherry harvest. Being able to make quick, informed decisions is crucial in ensuring the best outcomes, especially in the face of unpredictable factors by Mother Nature. This approach, combined with a willingness to adapt and persevere, has been a core philosophy of ours.”

Going forward, Thomas says Orchard View aims to constantly improve the quality of its cherries. This entails long-term planning, leveraging modern technologies in the packhouse and passing expertise and passion to the next generation.