Great Lakes Packing processes sweet, tart and brine cherries in northern Michigan.

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Northern Michigan cherry processing.

Great Lakes Packing Company's history
On April 15, 1972, twenty-five year old twin brothers Gene and Dean Veliquette broke ground with a young construction crew for a pole barn in the hay field that became Great Lakes Packing Company’s current location. Ninety days later, with expert assistance from their former U.S. Navy Seabee father and others, they had completed the building and equipped it with cherry processing equipment. Twenty-nine year old brother Norman Veliquette and his wife Marjory joined the company. In a very long 1972 season, the family processed 1000 tons of cherries from their orchards. Improvements were needed in the hastily-built plant and the 1970s were devoted to building customers, mastering the technology, and increasing farm production. Brothers Bob and Don Gregory, farm boys from Michigan’s Thumb and college friends with the Veliquette brothers joined the operation

Great Lakes Packing Company provides cherry processing services for tart, sweet, dark and light cherries in northern Michigan.
 

This cherry processor at Great Lakes Packing Company provides cherry processing services for tart, sweet, dark and light cherries in northern Michigan.

From recycling school buses to the industry's first successful portable processing line
The Gregory brothers and the Veliquette twins - with other family members - focused their energies on expanding the orchards and producing a bountiful supply of top quality cherries from both sides of Grand Traverse Bay . They distinguished both operations with farm shops that turned out leading-edge equipment for harvesting and cultural practices. They recycled retired school buses into harvest vehicles and spray trucks.

In the 1980s, Great Lakes Packing Company added a warehouse to its original processing plant. Norman and Marjory Veliquette were joined in the operation by younger brothers Jim and Jon Veliquette. The family built the cherry industry’s first successful portable processing line. They took the mobile equipment to Southwest Michigan where the ten-day harvest occurs 12 days ahead of Northern Michigan . When finished, they moved over-night back home to process the Northern Michigan crop. The tonnage in Southwest Michigan increased the competitive edge of the processing equipment and made Great Lakes Packing Company an attractive supplier. A second portable processing line went into operation in 1983.

 

Expanding and envisioning the future
By the late 1980s, both portable processing lines had settled in Hart as a base for operations. Jon Veliquette became the season-long operator. The base at Hart provided a means for individually quick freezing fresh-pitted cherries. Sales increased rapidly as cherries from Lake Michigan’s entire fruit belt flowed into Hart for processing at Great Lakes Packing Company.

In the 1990’s, GLPC built a specialized facility for processing sweet cherries preserved in sulfer dioxide (SO2). Veliquette sister Trudy Cullimore joined the team, bringing her management experience and adding her energy to the operation. In addition to providing sized, unpitted cherries (SUP’s), capabilities in the new facility grew for sizing, slicing, and pitting. Options increased for packaging and shipping of both frozen and SO2-preserved sweet cherries. Next generation family members who grew up in the operation also began taking responsibilities.

The 2000s have seen an expansion and complete renovation of the home plant in Kewadin, Michigan. The new Kewadin plant is still located close to the orchards where the fruit is freshest. The new plant incorporates four decades of experience in cherry processing by the Veliquette family. The plant also boasts facilities for converting and storing cherry pits as a biomass pellet fuel.

We're proud to say that Great Lakes Packing Company is, today, among Michigan’s largest and most progressive cherry processing firms. We can't wait to experience what the future holds for our family - and the entire Great Lakes Packing Company team - over the coming decades.

These Great Lakes Packing Company family members  take pride in processing northern Michigan's sweet, tart and brine cherries.
 

 

 

Northern Michigan cherry processing.

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Northern Michigan cherry processing.

Great Lakes Packing Company / 6556 Quarterline Road / Kewadin / Michigan / 49648
(231) 264-5561 / Fax: (231) 264-5594 / glpc@greatlakespacking.com

 

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