Family-owned cherry producer Jealous Fruits is exporting sweetness to the world
Photo of David Geen, the owner of British Columbia-based Jealous Fruits.
Not unlike highly coveted truffles or the anticipated Beaujolais nouveau, Jealous Fruits’ cherries are a seasonal luxury that lifts the spirits of consumers, whether in grandma’s homemade pie or as a coulis used as a garnish at Michelin-star restaurants around the world.
Other fruits are jealous that cherries are so exclusive, high quality, in demand and a delicious treat that flies off the shelves, hence the name of the family-owned and -operated cherry producer in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley.
“Canada punches above its weight in the cherry industry worldwide,” says David Geen, owner of Jealous Fruits. “We aim for very high quality cherries to ship into undersupplied markets around the world.”
The company has some 400,000 cherry trees on more than 840 acres of land, as well as a 30,000 square-foot state-of-the-art sorting and packing facility. But without access to international markets, the cherry industry—and Geen’s business—would likely be a shadow of the seasoned exporting enterprise that it is today.
Geen says if he couldn’t export to Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, the U.S. and China as he does now, Jealous Fruits would resemble the small cherry business his grandfather and great uncle ran in the 1940s. Back then, they sold cherries from a fruit stand and would have been lucky to get a shipment of the tasty fruit onto a train heading for the Prairies.
“I have clear memories of my great uncle and my grandfather and they would be astounded by what we’re doing today,” notes Geen. “Everything has changed so dramatically.”
Trade agreements like the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) help to provide market access for Canadian business owners like Geen. The CPTPP will make it easier and cheaper for Geen to export to the agreement’s member countries, he says.
International trade paired with technological advancements in storing and shipping are what Geen credits for the blossoming cherry industry. Today, cherries can be kept fresh longer, allowing producers to ship by more cost-effective sea freight.
Cultivated through cross-breeding over decades, cherries in the Okanagan are more resistant to rain damage.
The cherries also ripen later in the season, which is why Jealous Fruit has dubbed their crop the grand finale. The luscious, sugary and large cherries are well worth the wait, Geen says.
This seasonally later production cycle gives growers like Geen an edge—they’re exporting into undersupplied markets where their competitors are already done for the season.
Technology, trade and access to international markets help producers like Geen bring their exclusive cherries to the rest of the world.
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