Tabletree Montana, Kalispell, Mont., and Flathead Cherry Growers Association (FLCG), Bigfork, Mont., announced a joint partnership to construct a juice plant at Finley Point to be operational by the 2016 harvest season.

The new venture will produce world-class fruit juices and sauces utilizing culled, or damaged, fruit typically not suitable for market.

"They say necessity is the mother of invention," says Susan Snow, president of Tabletree Montana. "As farmers ourselves, we were highly motivated to find a use for our culled fruit, so we experimented with making juices. The result is a delicious and healthy product that has been well received by consumers, chefs and food scientists alike."

FLCG, an agricultural cooperative since 1935, sells most of its fruit through a marketing agreement with Monson Fruit Co., Selah, Wash. After being processed with state-of-the-art equipment, Monson packages and ships fresh Flathead cherries to domestic and foreign markets. In Montana, the cherries are consolidated and cooled at a warehouse at Finley Point, which is owned by FLCG. This building will also be the site of the new juicing facility.

"Cherries are culled for various deficiencies, and in the past, this has varied from 10-30%," says Bruce Johnson, FLCG president. "We have been looking for a way to create a value-added product made here in Montana. Our partnership with Tabletree is truly a win-win-win situation. We can more fully utilize our warehouse facility and increase returns for our local cherry growers, while being profitable for Tabletree and boosting our local economy with the creation of new jobs."