Sunnyvale’s last cherry orchard yields

Crop yields have been in the pits, causing Sunnyvale’s cherry orchards to disappear one by one.

Now the last one may soon be uprooted by apartments.

The Olson family, owner of the C.J. Olson Cherries orchard, is weeks away from closing negotiations with an undisclosed developer.

Target Stores had been negotiating for the site at El Camino Real and Mathilda Avenue for almost two years before walking away from the table this past summer.

Now, the Olson family, which has owned and operated the orchard for almost 100 years, is reportedly negotiating with a handful of developers interested in building a combination of apartments and light retail on the site.

Real estate sources said the interested bidders are San Jose-based Bay Apartment Communities, Cupertino-based Sobrato Development Cos. and Irvine Apartment Communities, based in Southern California.

Charlie Olson, owner of C.J. Olson Cherries, said it’s too early to comment.

“It’s still preliminary because nothing is signed,” he said. “We should know something better in about three weeks.”


A fruitful legacy: Charlie Olson, Sunnyvale’s longtime cherry farmer

At just 6 months old, Charlie Olson was already an active farmer in Sunnyvale orchards. His mother would pull him, tucked inside a 3-foot-long prune box, alongside her as she tended to the prune orchards. He doesn’t remember it, but plenty of close family friends have shared the memory with him.
For four generations, the Olson name has been synonymous with farming, mostly cherries, but Olson’s grandparents and parents harvested apricots and prunes for decades. They were Swedish immigrants who purchased their first orchard in 1899 at the corner of Taaffe Street and McKinley Avenue in Sunnyvale. A second orchard was purchased in 1919 at the corner of El Camino Real and Mathilda Avenue, which was farmed until being leased to developers in 1999.