About Us

Who is

Cherry Central?

Cherry Central is a farmer-owned cooperative that believes we are stronger when we work together. Today, Cherry Central comprises hundreds of small family farms. Just as our farmers have been innovating for generations, so is Cherry Central. Cherry Central is committed to the power of good. We lead with service, focusing on creating good and nutritious food. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that good and nutritious food has a direct and powerful impact on the health of people and the planet.

Our food is how we will impact the world. Our industry, agriculture, is at the intersection of food and health. As a farmer-owned co-op, we’re in a position to support a sustainable food system. By working together with our farmers, we can provide innovative, accessible, affordable, and nutritious food to people all over the world.

Here at Cherry Central, we focus our innovation in health and wellness. We focus on connecting farms to families and working together. We know the only way to make a true impact is to work together. Through charitable giving, we partner with local communities to support the health of people worldwide. We use our strategic pillars to stay aligned with our mission, so we can be an evolving and strong cooperative for generations to come.

Cherry Central manufacturing facilities have embraced the Global Food Safety Initiative standards. It’s how we know we’re promoting impactful health and food safety practices around the world. Through innovation, we create nutritious products for families worldwide, while making a positive impact on our environment.

We love what we grow and know that you will too.

Cherry Sketch

Our

History

Mountain view orchard

On April 2, 1973, five Michigan farmers came together to form the Cherry Central Cooperative. Since then, our federation of grower-controlled operations provides centralized sales and marketing operations for Michigan fruits and vegetables.

Our first products were tart cherries, sweet cherries, juice cherries, and purple plums. We sold tart cherries in 30-pound tins, packed in drums and plastic containers, or in a hot pack.

Cherry Central soon began to export its products to Canada, Japan and other countries in East Asia. Outstanding success in these markets led to expansion into Europe. By 1975, 25% of Cherry Central’s business came from export sales, thanks to high demand for the unique qualities of the Montmorency cherry. Today, Cherry Central exports a variety of products all over the world.

Truck on road
Cherry truck

Innovation remains an important part of our mission. In 1984, Cherry Central acquired Dunkley International as a wholy owned subsidiary. Acquiring this machinery manufacturer allowed us to expand our focus on developing innovative fruit processing equipment. Through the acquisition, we offered sales, leasing, service, and manufacture of cherry pitters and related equipment. We could also handle fabrication of complete cherry and blueberry processing lines.

Since then, Cherry Central continues to grow. We share our apples, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and other sweet crops with the world. Consumer demand led us to add pomegranite arils and asparagus in recent years. Today, Cherry Central transforms the world’s best fruit and asparagus into a wide range of outstanding products. We produce and package foods for the retail trade and wholesale markets, including ingredients, food servce, private label, and co-pack opportunities. As the food culture evolves, so do we. Our product line is always adapting to meet our clients’ needs.

Fruit in basket
Farmer holding cherries

Today, Cherry Central comprises hundreds of dedicated farmers and preferred processors in renowned fruit-growing regions in the United States, Canada and around the globe. Cherry Central leads the way in food safety, nutrition, and sustainability. We love what we grow, and know that you will too.

Mountain view orchard

On April 2, 1973, five Michigan farmers came together to form the Cherry Central Cooperative. Since then, our federation of grower-controlled operations provides centralized sales and marketing operations for Michigan fruits and vegetables.

Our first products were tart cherries, sweet cherries, juice cherries, and purple plums. We sold tart cherries in 30-pound tins, packed in drums and plastic containers, or in a hot pack.

Truck on road

Cherry Central soon began to export its products to Canada, Japan and other countries in East Asia. Outstanding success in these markets led to expansion into Europe. By 1975, 25% of Cherry Central’s business came from export sales, thanks to high demand for the unique qualities of the Montmorency cherry. Today, Cherry Central exports a variety of products all over the world.

Cherry truck

Innovation remains an important part of our mission. In 1984, Cherry Central acquired Dunkley International as a wholy owned subsidiary. Acquiring this machinery manufacturer allowed us to expand our focus on developing innovative fruit processing equipment. Through the acquisition, we offered sales, leasing, service, and manufacture of cherry pitters and related equipment. We could also handle fabrication of complete cherry and blueberry processing lines.

Fruit in basket

Since then, Cherry Central continues to grow. We share our apples, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and other sweet crops with the world. Consumer demand led us to add pomegranite arils and asparagus in recent years. Today, Cherry Central transforms the world’s best fruit and asparagus into a wide range of outstanding products. We produce and package foods for the retail trade and wholesale markets, including ingredients, food servce, private label, and co-pack opportunities. As the food culture evolves, so do we. Our product line is always adapting to meet our clients’ needs.

Farmer holding cherries

Today, Cherry Central comprises hundreds of dedicated farmers and preferred processors in renowned fruit-growing regions in the United States, Canada and around the globe. Cherry Central leads the way in food safety, nutrition, and sustainability. We love what we grow, and know that you will too.

The

Team

Melanie LaPerriere

President CEO

Catherine Collins

Chief Financial Officer

Cheryl Saxton

Director of Operations

Cherry sketch

Our

Growers

Family Farmers dedicated to bringing you the highest quality fruit products with a passion for preserving the quality of the land for generations to come.

hackert

Hackert Family Farms

schuyler

Schuyler Farms

Northwest tart

Northwest Tart Cherry

mcmullin orchards

McMullin Orchards

Farmer holding cherries

Payson Fruit Growers

Our

Subsidiaries

Our two wholly-owned subsidiaries help us to improve operations across the cooperative. We own Oceana Foods of Shelby, a fruit-drying facility, and Kalamazoo-based Dunkley International. Dunkley is a machinery manufacturer specializing in innovative fruit-processing equipment.

Our

Sales Channels

Melanie LaPerriere

President CEO

Melanie LaPerriere is a recognized leader in the further processed produce industry. She helped to create Naturipe Foods, launched in 2008 as a sales and marketing organization for a Midwestern based blueberry cooperative, a family owned blueberry grower from Delano, California, and a Santiago, Chile-based blueberry grower business.

She has directly impacted well-known brands, including Blue Diamond Almond consumer products, and Procter & Gamble branded food products. As Cherry Central’s President and CEO, she now leads a cooperative of growers spanning across multiple growing regions including Ontario, Canada; Michigan, Utah and Washington state.

Cherry Central is a leading producer of Montmorency cherry juices and concentrates, Indian Summer apple products, IQF cherries & 5+1 cherries serving the ingredient market. Melanie comes to Cherry Central as our cooperative nears its 50th anniversary. Her focus is positioning the company for success well into the future.

A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Melanie attended Xavier University where she graduated with a BSBA in Marketing. She began her career in Cincinnati with Procter & Gamble. She later moved to Northern California, where she worked for Blue Diamond Growers. She resides in Michigan and works out of our Traverse City, Michigan headquarters.

“As Cherry Central approaches its Golden Anniversary, we are presented with a wonderful opportunity to look toward the future, tackle new challenges, and ensure that this cooperative will succeed for another 50 years. We will grow together so we can serve consumers and customers together with one voice.”

Catherine Collins

Chief Financial Officer

Catherine Collins joined Cherry Central at the beginning of 2020. She brings almost 30 years of accounting and operations management experience in a variety of industries. Catherine is a certified management accountant (C.M.A.) and a member of the National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives.

A native of Traverse City, Catherine attended Grand Valley State University where she earned her BBA in Accounting. She worked in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area for a number of years before relocating back to Northern Michigan. When not at Cherry Central, Catherine enjoys her role on the Board of Directors of Munson Medical Center, skiing and hiking, and working with her husband on their small farm in Leelanau County.

“I’m really excited to combine my years of accounting knowledge with my personal farm experience to represent a wonderful group of members in a cooperative that is a leader in the industry.”

Cheryl Saxton

Director of Operations

Cheryl Saxton is one of the rare gems of the business world. She has been with Cherry Central for over 35 years and worked across multiple disciplines within the organization.

Cheryl was raised in Michigan. Born in Southfield, Michigan, she moved to Traverse City in the late 1970s. She began her career with Cherry Central while still attending high school at Traverse City H.S. The high school offered local work cooperative experience and Cheryl was hired as a receptionist and file clerk week days noon to 5pm.

She attended Northwestern Michigan College and was hired full time by Cherry Central as the assistant to the accounting manager. She oversaw the order management process for the ‘Naturally Good’ brand and all USDA-related order fulfillment.

Cheryl supported the Customer Service department helping with transportation before she moved to the fresh produce business for a time, working for North Bay Produce.

In 1993, Cheryl left Cherry Central briefly to become a full-time mother and day care provider. When she returned to Cherry Central, she went to work in logistics, helping with inventory and processing support to the Vice President of Sales.

In 1998, Chery became the Logistics Manager for Cherry Central. In this role, she oversaw all order management and logistics. Cheryl was elevated to the Director of Operations in 2015, reporting directly to the CEO/President. She is a key leader within the organization and broadly respected by owners and employees alike.