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A cherry a day

Placerville "U-pickers" get a taste of California at the American River Cherry Company, and it's just what the doctor ordered.



At the American River Cherry Company, the farm is always a flurry of activity. Cherry fans of all ages can be found plucking the juicy, red fruits right off the tree, filling their buckets with as much as they can get.

"They taste really, really sweet!" said 8-year-old Jessica Kever.

"We sampled a couple and they were good, really good!" said Julie Kever, Jessica's mom.

Shirley Rice and her husband, Dr. Reginald Rice, own this "U-pick" cherry company that's tucked away in the hills of Placerville, near the American River. The family-owned business has been in operation since 1984, when the couple moved from Boston to their current bucolic hilltop farm. And it's there in their "backyard," as they call it, where they've planted 15 acres of a variety of cherry trees.

"We have Rainiers, Vans, some called Olympus, some called Cashmere, but the mainstay that everybody recognizes is the Bing cherry," said Reginald.

And while they do have seasonal workers and sell to local stores and restaurants, the couple say "U-pickers" are the biggest part of their business.

"It gives us a great deal of joy because we like to see people come with their families," said Reginald.

This retired doctor now spends most of his time carefully tending to his orchards. And as it turns out, his calm bedside manner transfers nicely to the orchards.

"These plants don't give us a very good verbal history like people do, but there's a lot of similarities between being a farmer and doctor," he said. "Among other things, you need proper diagnosis and proper nutrition to keep these trees healthy."

And it's thanks to all that special TLC from farmers like Reginald that California has grown to become one of America's top cherry producers.

For more information about the America River Cherry Company, visit www.americanrivercherryco.com.


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