In 1991, Mike and Marsh Shadbolt bought a Royal Ann cherry orchard located in an historic cherry growing region, the Eola Hills west of Salem, Ore. Both began working together to learn everything about the cherry business as well as tending to the scenic 37 acres.
While learning about cherries they realized that by drying them — without adding any preservatives, sulfites, sugars or oils — the cherry’s natural flavors are highlighted. Their “cherry hobby” inspired them and slowly evolved into Cherry Country, a family-owned and -operated company based on showcasing the dynamic flavors and healthy benefits of cherries.
By 2001, business was booming and Celeste Shadbolt Bonniksen, Mike and Marsh’s daughter, joined the team as the general manager to help keep up with the increased demand as well as branding the company. Today, Cherry Country is dedicated to processing the best cherries from their own orchard as well as other neighboring, family-owned orchards.
Cherry Country specializes in making all-natural and preservative-free cherry products, highlighting the fruit’s wonderful natural flavors. The business’s signature product is Dried Cherries & Chocolate, which does not contain anything other than a Royal Ann dried cherry in the center of high quality milk or dark chocolate. This product is a great, all-natural alternative to the old-fashioned cherry cordial.
Over the past ten years, Cherry Country has had a strong presence at the local farmers markets. Cherry Country now employs six people and has enjoyed a thriving online business over the past few years.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
Ordinarily, I would say dark chocolate because I simply love it and I am a believer in its healing properties.
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
The last cool thing was probably something posted by my cousin Wendy of Boulder, Colorado. She travels all over the world and writes for a leading travel company.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I bounced around between dentist, lawyer and maybe banker.
What issues concern you the most about the confectionery industry and why?
I read the international chocolate publications when I can. I find the stability of world chocolate supplies very concerning.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
Jailbirdby Kurt Vonnegut.
What is your pet peeve?
Drivers who drive too fast and drivers that follow too close.
If given the chance to choose anyone, whom would you like to collaborate with?
I would like to collaborate with the president of Nike, Mark Parker, a customer of Cherry Country.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
When farming a new crop, find someone who farms the crop already who will share the specifics of how they actually do it. And then, follow the details of what, when and how closely as possible.
What excites you most about your job?
I love the people that I am privileged to work with as fellow employees in pursuit of a common goal.