Join Orchard Talk every day in February as the King Orchards family, crew and guest bloggers will be writing about cherries: growing and harvesting cherries, cherry recipes, cherry juice, and cherry nutrition news. We’re calling this series “28 Days Powered by Red,” in honor of National Cherry Month and American Heart Health Month.
28 Days Powered by Red: Day 1
We have a gorgeous winter day today. Unfortunately, I won’t be out much since I am trying to wrap up the year end accounting. The preliminary meeting went OK with our accountant but we have some ripples. Glenn Kole has been doing our tax returns for years. He is retired as a MSU farm economist with extension, and he really knows his farm tax landscape. But, now he is retiring from doing tax returns too, so he set us up with an ag accountant with a larger Traverse City firm. The first meeting went well and we have lots to think about. We are now paying the Michigan Business Tax. Purely ag enterprises are exempt but when you sell direct to the public (farm markets), or business to business (b2b mail order cherry juice) then you lose your exemption. We are exploring forming an LLC to put the mail order stuff under so we don’t lose the exemption on the ag side. We all know the state is desperate for the money!
This winter we have a constant buzz going in the shop. Tad Dowker, a long time cherry harvest helper, graduated from MTU (My alma mater!) and was laid off from his engineering job. Tad and Eric Belcher (our capable mechanic) have teamed up in the shop and are putting King Orchards on the right track.
First they took apart the old cherry harvester and replaced rusted and fatigued metal with lots of fabricating and welding. They made numerous improvements over the original design. Next they brought in the newer shaker that we bought in California last summer. They added numerous features which adapt it to our hilly terrain. We hope to take a shaker head from an old Shockwave Shaker which is very gentle on trees and fruit, and install it on a newer Coe shaker which isn’t as sensitive. This will take some planning and lots of fabrication.
Now they have taken our old pickup truck and removed the body to make the first of two forklifts on the schedule. Both Tad and Eric love “mud trucks” so they have brought their expertise on suspensions to the project and this looks like the best shopbuilt forklift ever. Instead of rear springs we use air bags from semi-truck suspensions. This allows a super soft smooth ride for the bins of apples and cherries. These lifts cost a fraction of a new brand name forklift and they actually fit our needs better than anything you can buy (we make them lower and shorter so they slip under the fruit and branches) The beauty of these lifts is that a worker can easily learn to drive them, they scoot quickly and quietly down long rows and back and forth to the farm yard bringing in bins of cherries (2000 lbs) or apples (1000 lbs).
If there is time we will buy several old school bus chassis and strip them down then add a huge fan to make wind machines. I have blogged in the past about wind machines and we think adding 5-6 more will make us feel more protected.
I have to quit blogging now so that I can think of projects to stay ahead of the shop’s dynamic duo!