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Earl’s Visits Capay Satsuma

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With the 5 of us in Earl’s car, we embarked on the 156 mile journey north to Orland, CA. After getting off of I-5 and turning onto “Country Road 9” Earl commented, “That’s when you know you’re in farm country. When you get on Country Road 9!” The grid of long straight rural roads eventually led us to 7346 Cutting Avenue and the home of Capay Satsuma.

We pulled up and parked outside of the packing shed, and shortly thereafter Dawit walked up to welcome us. Dawit Zeleke and his wife, Cori Ong, have owned the 12 acre orchard for 17 years. The folks they bought it from did not farm it organically, but after 1 year on the land, they decided to go through the 3 year transition to becoming certified organic with CCOF.

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The oldest trees on the property are 54 year old, the youngest just are just a few years. In total there are about 1,000 trees on the property. Around the base of many trees, especially the younger ones, is black material to prevent weeds from growing and competing with the trees for nutrients. On some of the older trees, Dawit showed us that the fruit on the exterior was relatively soft, whereas the fruit on the inside of the tree was mature, firm, strong quality. Knowing what fruit will work for each facet of their customer base is important. Earl’s is their only wholesaler. They also sell to a handful of local stores, and the Davis and Marin County farmers markets. Cori runs a small mail order business in which small gift boxes are packed with care, filled with raffia, hand written notes, and beautiful fruit. These gift boxes are sent all over the country.

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About 10-20%% of the fruit is of the color, and firmness that they would pack it for us at Earls. In a good year (as this year has been) 90% of their fruit is sellable. In years with more rain and unfavorable weather conditions, that can swing closer to 50%.

Although inland, they do experience foggy damp mornings often in the orchard. In order to dry the fruit off so they can start picking workers use leaf blowers to dry the first few trees when necessary. By mid-day things have typically dried off enough that this does not need to be done. Fruit is packed into quaint wood crates and then brought into the packing shed. Each piece of fruit goes down a “buffer” to brush off and buff the fruit. It then runs down a sorter which sizes the fruit and gets it to the packers who do the pack it into 25# boxes, or 5# bags.

As we wrapped up at the orchard and packing shed and headed out to lunch at the local Mexican restaurant, we quickly learned that Dawit knew most people in the small town. He was greeted by neighbors and local beekeepers with big smiles and respectful handshakes. He had a good joke for each acquaintance with whom we crossed paths. His sense of humor had us chuckling throughout the day as well.

Dawit and his wife are appreciative of their relationship with Earls, and we certainly all left with a great appreciation for them as people and growers. Great people with great fruit, that we can buy, receive, sell and ship with pride. Thanks to each person here at Earls for doing their part to support this relationship!

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Carson Evers, Earl Herrick, Dawit the grower, Christe Biddle and Nick Arabian

Sweet Potatoes and Yams Are Two Different Vegetables

Thanksgiving is only 2 days away and sweet potatoes are one of the most popular vegetables on the menu. Sweet potatoes are commonly seen labeled as yams, when in reality they are most likely sweet potatoes. Many years ago the U.S. government decided to label sweet potatoes by their color to make things easier. The creamy white flesh ones are labeled sweet potatoes and the orange fleshed ones are sometimes labeled yams.  The USDA requires that sweet potatoes labeled as yams also be labeled as sweet potatoes. Chances are likely that you are buying sweet potatoes regardless of what the label says. Are you still confused?

In reality sweet potatoes and yams are two totally different vegetables.  Yams are tubers and are usually found imported in ethnic markets in the United States. They are originally from Africa, where over 95% of the world’s crop is harvested, and Asia.  Yams are grown in tropical climates and are very popular in Latin America and the Caribbean.  A few varieties can grow up to 7 feet in length and weigh almost 200 pounds! The skin of a yam is rough and scaly and the taste is very starchy.  Yams are toxic when raw and must be cooked to get rid of the toxins. They are an extremely important part in the diet of the people in Nigeria and West Africa.  Yams supply more than 200 calories per person per day for more than 150 million people in West Africa while also providing a necessary income for local farmers.  Yams are high in vitamin C and B and potassium and low in saturated fat and sodium.  The flavor can sometimes be sweeter than a sweet potato depending on the variety.

Sweet Potatoes are thought to originate in either Central or South America at least 5,000 years ago.  In the U.S. they are grown in temperate climate zones.  North Carolina is the largest producer of sweet potatoes followed by California, Louisiana and Mississippi.  In California 80% of the sweet potatoes are grown in Merced County followed by Fresno and Stanislaus County. When you sit down for the traditional American Thanksgiving dinner you will be eating sweet potatoes regardless of their color.

There are 5 main types of sweet potatoes grown. The orange flesh varieties become moist when cooked and the white flesh varieties become dry when cooked with a crumbly texture similar to a baked white potato. The Garnet is the classic sweet potato that most people think of when making mashed sweet potatoes, pies, cakes and breads.

  1. Red Skin/Orange Flesh (Varieties include Dianas, Reds & Garnets)
  2. Orange Skin/Orange Flesh (Varieties include the Beauregard, Covington & Jewel)
  3. White Skin/White Cream Flesh (Varieties include the O’Henry, Jersey Sweet, Hannahs or Hannah Golds)
  4. Red Skin/White Flesh (Japanese Sweet varieties include Murasaki & Kotobuki-most commonly referred to as “Orientals”. Also referred to as Satsumaimo in Japan)
  5. Red skin/Purple Flesh (Purple Stokes)
A variety of sweet potatoes from Earl's

A few examples of sweet potatoes from Earl’s

 Storing Sweet Potatoes

  • Store sweet potatoes in a cool dark place.
  • Don’t store them in the refrigerator! Refrigeration will make the center of the sweet potato hard and it will cook unevenly.

Sweet potatoes are relatively low in calories and have no fat. They are rich in beta-carotene , having five times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin A in one sweet potato, as well as loaded with potassium. These nutrients help to protect against heart attack and stroke. Purple sweet potatoes are particularly rich in antioxidants called anthocyanins, also found in blueberries and pomegranates. This compound is best known for boosting immunity and thought to help fight cancer.

My favorite Japanese sweet potato recipe is Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes with Miso Scallion Butter. You will fall in love with Japanese Sweet potatoes if you haven’t already. One of Earl’s Organic customers’ raves about making hash browns with the Purple Stokes sweet potato.  Share your favorite sweet potato recipe on our Facebook page.

Earl’s Organic Produce wishes all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving! Eat well and enjoy the holiday.

Cranberries Herald In The Holidays

Visions of beautiful red cranberries fill my head as we draw closer to the holidays. Cranberries were introduced to the English settlers in Massachusetts in the early 1800’s and the first farmed cranberries were grown in Cape Cod.  Over half of the United States crop is grown in Wisconsin. Massachusetts is the second largest producer followed by New Jersey, Oregon and Washington.  Canada is also a big player with over 20% of the world’s cranberries grown in the province of British Columbia.  Cranberries are also grown in New Brunswick, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Quebec. Eastern Canada’s cooler weather is especially ideal for growing organic cranberries and more than 80% of the organic cranberries are grown in Quebec. The cold weather helps to prevent fungus from forming. The cold weather, just like with citrus, also helps to bring out the full flavor and deep color of the fruit.

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Cranberries are grown on vines planted in bogs with a mixture of moist acid peat soil and sand which allows them to thrive in harsh weather conditions. Cranberries turn from green to white to a deep red, telling the grower they are ready to be harvested. The harvest season lasts from about mid-September to mid-November. Cranberries sold for the fresh market are dry harvested and make up less than 5% of the entire cranberry harvest.  Mechanical pickers are pushed through the bog like a lawnmower, combing the vines and depositing the cranberries into burlap bags.

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Cranberry bog: First dry harvested for fresh cranberries and then filled with water to harvest cranberries for processing.

The cranberries are taken to a facility to be washed and then sorted through a machine to pick out any soft berries.  Good berries will bounce because of their air pockets. The soft berries will not bounce and therefore will not make the cut to be packaged for fresh berries. Some growers use an optical sorter to pick out only the red berries. Lastly the berries move on a conveyor belt where workers pick out any light colored berries that might have slipped through.

The remaining 95% of cranberries are wet harvested and used to make juices, concentrates, sauces, dried fruit and as ingredients in processed foods. The bogs are flooded with water from a reservoir area which can take a few hours up to a few days depending on the size of the bog.  Water reels move through the bog and the wheels knock the berries off the vines. The berries will then float to the surface because of the tiny air pockets inside them.  The cranberries are then corralled by a person wading through the bog pulling large vinyl booms around the berries. From there the cranberries are then vacuumed out of the bog onto a tractor trailer bed.

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Cranberries are incredibly good for you and are not just for enjoying during the holiday season. Eaten fresh, frozen or dried, cranberries are high in vitamin C, fiber and vitamin E and packed with antioxidants. Cranberries are said to help prevent urinary tract infections, improve immune function, decrease blood pressure and help fight cancer. One half of cup of cranberries has only 25 calories!

Recipe Ideas:

*Toss a handful of fresh cranberries with pears or apples for a delicious sweet/tart salad
*Muddle fresh cranberries with your favorite vinegar and blend with olive for a tangy salad dressing
*Thanksgiving is the perfect time to make Satsuma cranberry sauce with Satsuma Mandarin juice and chopped up peel from Side Hill Citrus Satsumas from Lincoln, CA
* Dip fresh cranberries in milk chocolate and freeze them for 5 minutes

Earl’s is offering three different pack sizes of organic cranberries this holiday season. Patience cranberries from Quebec are available in 22# bulk cases and 18oz clamshells and the GreenBelle Biodynamic cranberries from Wisconsin are available in 8oz cello bags.  Biodynamic agriculture treats the farm, including soil, plants and animals, as a single interrelated and self-sustaining ecosystem. Contact your Earl’s sales representative for more information.

10 months later… An update on Covilli’s Fair Trade Program

From the desk of Iris Madrigal, Marketing Manager Covilli Brand Organics.

It seems like yesterday when we announced loud and clear that we had obtained our Fair Trade Certification. Having the Fair Trade seal makes official to our customers what they can’t see for themselves in regards to our fair and decent behavior as employers: safe working conditions, access to healthcare and education for workers’ children; regulated working hours as well as rest and sick days.

25 years after our founder Terry Poiriez began this journey, Covilli Brand Organics is being run by second generation successors who continue to fulfill his legacy of integrity and equitability that are Covilli’s core values.

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The way we treat our land, our customers and more specifically our employees, reflects on our Organic, Food Safety and Fair Trade Certifications.

Covilli has a deep commitment to the Fair Trade program and employees, to show for it, we chose to sell EVERYTHING as Fair Trade only which might make us the first and only grower-shipper who is 100% Organic AND Fair Trade.

Buying ANY of Covilli’s Fair Trade products is an easy way to support the hard-working people who grow the products that you love. At only few extra cents per pound-the Fair Trade Premium-will allow for democratically chosen projects to become a reality in our farm worker communities; this is empowerment through decision making: “what is the best for all of us?” and “how can we achieve it?”

What can we report 10 months after our Fair Trade Certification?

Well, we are extremely grateful for our customers, who are more like partners that have wholeheartedly supported our Fair Trade program and efforts. Premiums rolled in and add up to $250,000.00 dollars!!! This money is in possession of our farmworkers’ Association – “Nuchi Sansekan” in their zapoteco indigenous language, means All Together.

The first step towards investing the Fair Trade premium, that being the money collected, is to evaluate the worker’s specific needs through a “Basic Needs Evaluation”. The evaluation’s main objective is to provide useful information that helps identify specific needs and therefore, precise use for the Premium.  Covilli is in the process of gathering the opinions and needs of every single employee. The Fair Trade Premium can positively impact and transform the livelihood of our farmworkers and their families and the Basic Needs Evaluation is the first best step.

Covilli is starting their 2016-17 season; we are expanding and incorporating new projects that will allow us to provide a better service for you. As our slogans say: we are Growing Quality by Tradition. Make your purchase count and support farmworker empowerment.

Truly Organic, Truly Fair and Truly Grateful.

Avocados Back In Stores After Strike

We have good news! After 2 weeks of labor disputes the Mexican avocado strike is officially over. Crews were back picking on Saturday, October 15th and a large supply of avocados is finally crossing the border. You can expect to see all sizes of avocados in stores this weekend.  Keep in mind that this is new crop and the fruit will be green and could take up to a week to ripen.  Read more about the avocado strike here.

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Side Hill Satsumas Arriving Soon

We are less than 2 weeks away from the arrival of the first crop of the coveted Side Hill Satsuma mandarins!  Side Hill Citrus in Lincoln, CA, located in the Sacramento foothills, has the best Satsuma Mandarins in our opinion.

As Fourth generation farmer Rich Ferreira waits for the Satsumas to dry out from the recent rains, he continues to walk the orchards every day checking the fruit for color and flavor. You can be sure that the Side Hill Satsuma Mandarins will have a good balance of tart and sweet from the first picking.  As the season progresses they will only get sweeter.

Satsumas peel effortlessly, making it the perfect on the go snack for both kids and adults.  As the weather continues to get colder Satsumas are the ultimate cold buster. Eat four or five Satsumas a day to receive six to seven times as much synephrine, a natural decongestant, as other citrus. Plan to stock up in November and December because the season usually ends the beginning of January.

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$500 Sign on Bonus – Class A and B Delivery Drivers

Earl’s Organic Produce, Inc., a leading distributor of organic produce throughout Northern California, seeks a skilled and safe Class A and B Delivery Driver for our San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market headquarters.

Under the direction of the Transportation Supervisor, the selected candidate will deliver palletized orders to our diverse customer base in a timely and attentive manner.

Responsibilities will include:
• Conducting thorough pre-trip safety checks
• Maintaining accurate trips logs and related reports
• Securing loads to ensure product integrity upon delivery
• Efficiently navigating assigned delivery routes
• Unloading and appropriately handling pallets and packages, per customers’ specific needs
• Providing excellent customer service at every opportunity
• Informing his/her supervisor of route delays and outstanding delivery situations
• Obtaining necessary delivery receipts
• Organizing and securing all route related paperwork
• Participating in efficient route planning
• Pick-up dispatched backhauls in a timely manner
• Cultivating respectful working relationships with all customer personnel
• Contributing ideas for individual and team improvement
• Actively supporting other team members in a direct and respectful fashion
• Participating in related team projects and activities

Position requirements include:
• Valid driver’s license and clean driving record
• Class A or B California driver’s license required
• Able to operate an electric Pallet Jack
• Able to operate a hand truck
• 2-3 years delivery driving experience, preferably with a fresh produce company but not necessary
• Familiarity with Bay Area traffic patterns
• Ability to read directions and use a street map to plot delivery route
• Ability to maintain logs and records
• Strong communication skills
• Excellent customer service ability
• Ability to respond to feedback from others
• Ability to present oneself professionally in customer-facing situations
• Ability to maintain respect and composure in stressful situations
• Attention to detail
• Desire to support other team members
• High energy!
• Desire to grow individually and to learn how to best support other team members
• Ability to lift a minimum of 50 lbs. on a regular basis
• Ability to read, write and understand English
• Basic Warehouse experience

Earl’s Organic Produce provides a highly competitive compensation package, including medical, dental, vision, LTD and voluntary life, plus a company-sponsored retirement program.

Wage range:
Class B Drivers: $18.50 – $22.50 DOE
Class A Drivers: $23.50 – $26.50 DOE

$500 sign on bonus with completion of 90 days of employment

Earl’s Organic Produce works to embrace diversity in all its forms; it strives to be an inclusive community that fosters an open, enlightened and productive environment.

Interested candidates are encouraged to submit a cover letter, resume, and three references via email or come directly to:

Earls Organic Produce
2101 Jerrold Ave., Suite 100
San Francisco, CA 94124

    • Principals only. Recruiters, please don’t contact this job poster.
    • do NOT contact us with unsolicited services or offers

Fuyu and Hachiya Persimmons

Bright orange Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons have arrived along with the cooler weather and it finally feels like fall.  There are several species of persimmons but the most common is the Japanese or Oriental persimmon, also called the D. Kaki species.  In Japan they are the national fruit and called Kaki.  There are at least six varieties of the Asian persimmon but the Fuyu and the Hachiya are the most commonly grown in the United States. The season starts up in October and can continue into January, weather dependent.

California produces almost 100% of the persimmon crop in the United States with over half of the persimmons grown in Tulare and Fresno counties. The other main areas are Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties and a very small amount are grown in Sutter and Placer counties north of Sacramento.

The two varieties eat very different. The Hachiya is tapered like an acorn and has a bright reddish orange skin. It is extremely astringent and bitter when firm.  If eaten when still firm it will leave a fuzzy unpleasant feeling in your mouth. The Hachiya needs to be jelly soft before it becomes edible. When the fruit has become very soft scoop out the flesh and use it in cakes, cookies, muffins and smoothies.  My favorite recipe is the James Beard persimmon bread.

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Hachiya persimmons are elongated and tapered like an acorn

Fuyu’s are short, squat and non-astrigent and when ripe they have a sweet flavor with a hint of cinnamon and apricot.   You can eat them raw when they are firm or soft and they do not need to be peeled.  Fuyu’s can be eaten like an apple, cut up and eaten on their own. You may sometimes find a few seeds inside but they are easy to eat around. I like combining pomegranate arils with Fuyu slices in a colorful Fall fruit salad.

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Fuyu persimmons are short and squat

How to store:
Persimmons unlike many fruits will keep longer if left at room temperature.  Once they are in the refrigerator they will go soft faster and will need to be eaten quickly. Look for persimmons with smooth skin and no bruising. Persimmons are an excellent source of Vitamin A, C and fiber and full of antioxidants.

Cool fact: 
The light colored, fine-grained wood from a persimmon tree is used to make billiard cues, drum sticks, golf clubs and furniture.

Johnston Family Organics

“We want to live in an environment that is not clouded with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers,” says Ian Johnston. The Johnston Family is passionate about growing organically and giving people a choice in how their food is produced.

Ian and Sylvia Johnston live and work on their home ranch in Woodland, California, about a half hour south of Sacramento in Yolo County.  Running the farm is a family business and their son John helps to run the day to day operations.  Most of their 220 acre farm is devoted to growing organic Butternut, Spaghetti, Delicata and Acorn Squash. When asked why they grow in Woodland Ian answers “The nice long hot summer days and delta breeze in the evening making for cool evening and night time temperatures, allows the plants to stay in the optimal temperature range for optimal growth.”

Butternut Squash

For Ian, Sylvia, John, and their full time employees farming is not a job, it is a way of life. They do whatever they need to do to get the job done. “Unfortunately plants grow on their own schedule. They don’t care if it is Sunday or a holiday.  When they need something done you have to get it done then so the plants thrive. We all spend a lot of time together producing the products for the market. We take it very serious that our name gives customers the sense of truth that our product has been grown to the utmost standards,” says Ian.

The Johnston’s are always looking for ways to farm sustainably. Their tractors are equipped with GPS guidance to maximize driver performance, reduce fuel usage and minimize their carbon foot print; they irrigate with buried drip tape to be the most efficient with their water, use beneficial insect predators to keep insect pressure down and generate all energy used for their house and shop from solar panels.

The Johnston’s enjoy conquering challenges and every day farming is different and every year gives different growing conditions.  “The satisfaction of facing a challenge and overcoming it is what fuels us to make ourselves better growers every day.”

Organic produce from the Johnston Family “Is truly from our family to yours,” says Ian.

October Is Fair Trade Month

Join us as we celebrate Fair Trade month with Coliman Fair Trade Organic Bananas on special for the whole month of October!  

Buying Fair Trade products ensures that farm workers enjoy sustainable wages, safe working conditions and improves their community by collectively investing in social and business projects such as providing health care, scholarships and leadership training.

Coliman’s Fair Trade Commitment: “Quality and service is our core belief and value while caring for our people and land. Our Fair Trade certification shows our customers that we care about fairness, justice and integrity for our workers, sustainable development, and that being a socially responsible company is an important part of our business and philosophy. Our goal is to provide only the best fresh bananas in the marketplace while ensuring that the teams of workers in the field can earn a decent and dignified livelihood, but more importantly, live a just and dignified life for them and their family.”

Fair Trade month comes just once a year but Coliman bananas are Organic Fair Trade all year long.

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POS Materials available upon request.  Please contact your Earl’s sales representative.

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