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Archive for May, 2014

Earl’s Envisions a Sustainable Future

Earl’s Organic was born out of a desire to promote a lifestyle founded on respect for both the people who produce our food and the land from which it is grown. We have always operated on the principals of conscientiousness and accountability in both the relationships that we maintain with our customers and vendors, as well as the way we organize our day to day operations.

In recent years, however, the immediate need for action around the environmental impact of our operations has become more apparent. Our commitment to environmentalism extends far beyond simply composting and recycling; Short sighted environmentalism like this is just the tip of the iceberg. Further action is needed to examine the true environmental cost of our operations- the emissions from our trucks, the energy required to power our coolers, and not just where we put our waste at the end of its life, but how much we are producing and consuming. Ultimately, we must find a way to eliminate the use of nonrenewable resources required to power our operations.

It is not just about respecting our land and respecting our communities, it is about sustaining an environment that can produce the same bounty of produce tomorrow as it can today. The agricultural industry today is in peril. Climate change is posing a dire threat to our food supply- rising temperatures, more extreme weather patterns, and severe droughts are causing devastating effects on crop yields and food production. This is by no means a new phenomenon. The awareness around the devastating environmental effects of intensive agriculture practices that rely on agrochemicals and monocrops has been a topic of conversation for decades. But today the impact of the changing climate on the enduring prosperity and capacity of our food systems is more apparent than it has ever been. Consequently, our action today on sustainability is essential for the preservation of our industry, our food system, and the continued sustenance of all humans.Impact of Climate Change on Agricultural Productivity

In 2013, Earl’s Organic announced the launch of its formal sustainability program with the intent of developing a more comprehensive understanding of the social and environmental impact of our operations and more actively using our long standing awareness to make positive changes towards reducing our waste to landfill, our dependence on fossil fuels and nonrenewable resources, and the general environmental impact of our business operations. We began the roll-out with a visioning process. The sustainability visioning committee, a group consisting of 14 passionate and intuitive individuals from various departments created a revised mission statement for Earl’s that encompasses our commitment to sustainability, our values, and our long term vision for the company (see below). As part of this visioning process we determined a set of short, mid, and long term goals that we would like to pursue. This sustainability vision illustrates a clear picture of a future state that everyone at Earl’s feels committed towards working to achieve and will ultimately guide our action and act as a roadmap for redesigning our operations to be better aligned with our sustainability objectives.

However, because we can’t manage what we don’t measure, we’ve created a comprehensive baseline assessment of all of our environmental impact areas- fuel, energy, waste, greenhouse gas emissions, water and packaging- to serve as a benchmark from which to measure the progress towards our short, mid, and long term goals. Using this data, the Sustainability Action Committee will meet monthly and is responsible for determining areas for improvement, performing research, creating action plans, and measuring progress towards meeting our goals. Under the guidance of the Sustainability Manager, The Committee will provide initial and ongoing leadership, supervision, and coordination to Earl’s sustainability effort.

At this juncture Earl’s celebrates the successful roll-out of its sustainability program with the publishing of its revised mission and vision, the release of its short, mid and long term goals, and the convening of its sustainability action committee. The sustainability program has already had major success (see the dramatic reduction in waste to landfill with the roll-out of Earl’s new waste system) and looks forward to many more.

 

Earl’s New and Improved Mission and Vision StatementsMission Vision Values

Mission:

Earl’s Organic Produce promotes organic agriculture and a sustainable food trade while cultivating enduring partnerships with growers and customers.  We operate on the principles of innovation, education, and superior customer service to distribute premium certified organic fruits and vegetables to our diverse customer base.

Vision:

Earl’s Organic Produce aspires to connect those who produce and consume organic food by creating mutually beneficial, meaningful, and committed relationships across the food chain. We seek to educate, excite, and evoke passion for the organic culture and continually evolve our business practices to both promote and meet the needs of the ever expanding organic industry. Furthermore, we are committed to discovering and implementing innovative business solutions in order to improve the social, economic, and environmental sustainability of our operations.

 

California Fig Seasons

There are two seasons for figs in California. The first crop starts up around the end of May and lasts only for a few weeks. We will see a gap for about a month until the second and much more flavorful crop is harvested in late July or at the beginning of August. Figs love warm days and night time warmth. California figs are usually grown in the central valley around the Fresno/Reedly area to up north of Sacramento in Corning.

Buyer beware! The first crop will not have developed the flavor you have come to expect from figs. Your patience will be rewarded when the second crop arrives and the first bite reveals a honey sweetness that is perfect all on its own.

Figs are all hand-picked by workers wearing long sleeves because of the scratchy leaves and reactions some workers have due to the sap on the trees. The figs are packed into 3 gallon buckets and then cooled by fans in a warehouse which suck out the fruit’s internal heat from 100 to 44 degrees.  This allows the fruit to stay fresh and delicious tasting during the farm to table journey. The figs are then packed into pints in an air conditioned warehouse and then loaded onto a refrigerated truck to a location near you.

How to eat fresh figs? Out of hand is the easiest but they are also delicious cut up and tossed in a salad or try putting goat cheese in the middle and then drizzling with a little honey. Please share your favorite ways to eat figs on our Facebook wall.

Black Mission Figs

Black Mission Figs

Pluot, Plum or Apricot?

Pluots look very similar to a plum but they are actually a hybrid of about 75% plum and 25% apricot or it could be 60% plum and 40% apricot. It is difficult to discern the exact percentage because of all the complex crossbreeding between hybrids. One thing for sure is that the Pluot is more plum than apricot. Floyd Zaiger, the father of over 200 stone fruit varieties, developed the Pluot from the Plumcot, developed by Luther Burbank. To learn more about the genetic history of the Pluot click here.

Pluots have a sweet rich plum flavor married with the savory flavor and dense flesh of an apricot. Pluots are mostly grown in the San Joaquin Valley where the winter time temperatures are not too cold and the summer time is hot and dry. Pluots come in many colors from green, shades of purple, pink to red and can be solid, mottled, dappled or spotted.  They often have a white or silvery colored “coating” on them. This is a natural, waxy, protective coating produced by the fruit.

The first variety of Pluot to land at Earl’s is the deep plum colored Flavorosa.  A first bite into this early pluot is tangy followed a sweetness that floods your mouth. As the season continues other varieties will arrive including Flavor King, Flavor Queen, Flavor Supreme and the ever popular Dapple Dandy, also known as the “dinosaur egg”.

Always make sure to wash your fruit before eating it. Look for pluots that are smooth-skinned, plump and firm. They will ripen on your counter and you can refrigerate them for up to 3 days.

Flavor Rosa Pluot

Flavor Rosa Pluot

California Cherry Season Is Short

Cherries are a small and delicate fruit and need to be handled with extreme care.  The fruit starting to size up on the tree can still be damaged if there is heavy rain or wind.  Extreme weather can cause the cherries to split or crack and that part of the crop is lost.  The cherries dangle together in groups of 2 to 6 pieces of fruit and the wind can cause them to bang up against each other, causing bruising on the shoulders of the fruit, the area near the stem.

The cherry season is very short in California and we anticipate it lasting only another week or two. Buy California while you can!

Quality Packing Chelan Cherries (2)

GMO Action in California

This Friday May 23rd the California Appropriations Committee will determine whether California Senate Bill 1381 (a cleaner and simpler version of Prop 37 which will require all food made with genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such) will proceed to the Senate Floor for a vote or remain in suspense and eventually die.

California was the first US state to introduce legislation around GMO labeling. Although proposition 37 was narrowly defeated by a 3% margin in 2012, it paved the way for states across the country to introduce legislation of their own. Since the introduction of Prop 37, 20 different states have drafted legislation, three states currently have legislation on their ballots, and three states have actually passed mandatory GMO labeling laws.

Polls show that the majority of Californians do support GMO labeling and prop 37’s defeat was primarily due to the pervasiveness of anti GMO labeling advertisements (the companies supporting the NO on 37 campaign like Monsanto and Pepsi outspent the YES campaign by 5-to-1). Many respondents who voted no on Prop 37 say they support GMO labeling and did so because of the confusion caused by the anti-labeling propaganda.

The difference, however, between CA SB 1381 and California Proposition 37 is that SB 1381 will not be put to public vote like Prop 37. The Senate Bill will be put through the California legislative process and its verdict will be determined by California’s elected officials. This means that it is important as companies and as individuals to communicate with our state assembly members and our state senators the importance of GMO labeling and urge them to support the passing of SB 1381. For more information about getting in touch with your state legislators please visit http://www.labelgmos.org/.

GMO labeling is not about making judgments about the safety, value, or morality of genetically engineered foods. It is about giving consumers the right to know what they are ingesting. Earl’s supports GMO labeling for the same reason that we support organic labeling: transparency. We believe that people both need and are entitled to make informed decisions about the food they are consuming and deserve to know where their food comes from, how it is produced and what exactly they are putting in their bodies.

Over 60 countries in the world require GMO labeling and we too as Californians and as Americans deserve the right to know what is in our food. Visit http://www.labelgmos.org/ for more information about current GMO related legislation in California and across the country.

Visit http://www.nongmoproject.org/ for more information!

Visit http://www.nongmoproject.org/ for more information!

 

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