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Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes July 7, 2019

A few weeks ago Fruit Buyer, Jonathan Kitchens and Food Safety Manager/Conditioning Specialist Spencer Bernardo traveled to Ecuador as part of Equal Exchange’s annual banana delegation.  The delegation consisted of Equal Exchange employees, sales members from Four Seasons Distribution and a smattering of produce managers and buyers of grocery co-ops from the Northeast states.  The delegation visited the AsoGuabo banana cooperative that supplies Equal Exchange’s banana program.  AsoGuabo is a cooperative of over 100 small (under 30 hectares) banana producers.  They also visited several growers including an agroforesty producer in the mountains.  They saw all operations from growing and cultivation though harvest and packing.  Read the full story in our latest buyer’s notes.

First U.S. Grown Fair Trade Certified Stone Fruit

Homegrown Organic Farms is proud to represent the first-ever, US-grown Fair Trade Certified stone fruit; grown by none other than Vernon Peterson. Vernon and his family have been farming for over 30 years in Kingsburg in the central San Joaquin Valley.  For Vern, being a part of the Fair Trade movement goes beyond price, beyond organic, and has become about people and the communities surrounding farms that grow the fruit consumers enjoy. Since the beginning, Vern’s view of family reaches far beyond those of immediate relation; his family extends to and includes over 100 year-round employees. Participating in the Fair Trade program is one more tangible way Vern can give even more back to his “extended family members;” to see them succeed while making a difference in their community. This program ensures that people working on his farm are being cared for over and above the industry standard by offering things like healthcare, retirement, longer breaks, and paid time off. The small premium that is collected on each box of fruit sold is returned directly to those workers on Vern’s farm. Those employees elect a committee and that committee is empowered to decide community priorities together, then as a cohort, invest those funds accordingly. With Vern’s Fair Trade journey just beginning, we are excited to see what projects these farm workers come up with to further sustain and better serve their valued, growing communities.

Vernon Peterson Homegrown Organics

Fair Trade USA is a nonprofit organization that develops and oversees standards that work to ensure safe working conditions in the field, benefits for farm workers, and environmental protections for the farm. Within this program, a small premium is collected on every box of Fair Trade produce sold. This premium is returned directly to a committee of farm workers from the farm the fruit originated from. This committee polls workers to learn what the priorities and needs of their community are, then oversees the execution of those projects. Farms all around the world have been able to create infrastructure, medical clinics, education programs, recreation facilities, and so much more because consumers choose to purchase Fair Trade products.

Other benefits of Fair Trade

– Funds community development projects that are chosen by workers

– Prohibits child labor and bans GMOs

– Requires the protection of soil and water biodiversity

– Reduces energy use and greenhouse gas emissions

Go behind the scenes with Vern as he talks about his farm workers and how they’ve become part of his family. https://youtu.be/aZ4DydkbPgw?t=189

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes June 30, 2019

Blenheim apricots are the most coveted of the apricot varieties and are fast disappearing. They were brought to California from England in the 1880’s and were grown mostly in the Sacramento and Santa Clara valleys. They have great apricot flavor but are not good travelers and are usually only found at farmers markets. Many growers have abandoned the Blenheim in favor of varieties that are grown for their long shelf life and ability to travel long distances.  There are only a few growers left in California and Earl’s is fortunate to be carrying Dwelley Blenheim apricots, a fourth generation farm, from Brentwood, California.

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes June 23, 2019

Earl’s Organic visits Dwelley Farms in Brentwood, California. Join us as Patrick Johnston picks the first of the organic corn and shares how they organically deal with worms.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuUhGpoBWOo

Breba Fig Crop

We are starting to see the first of the California breba fig crop rolling in, also known as the first crop. The breba crop grows on last year’s tree shoots and harvest is usually around the end of May or beginning of June.  The breba crop lasts for a few weeks and hasn’t yet developed the honey sweetness we associate with figs.  We will experience a short gap before the second, more flavorful crop starts up in July. The first land of Black Mission Figs is coming from Madera in the central San Joaquin Valley.

The large fruit is the Breba or “first crop”, while the small fruit is the second crop.

Figs love the hot days and warm nights and are grown mainly in the central valley around the Fresno/Madera area to up north of Sacramento in Corning.  Maywood Farms in Corning, CA, Stellar in Madera, CA and Susie Bee farms from Chowchilla, in the central Joaquin Valley, bring you some of the best organic figs. California ranks #1 in US production of figs and produces 100 % of the USA’s dried figs and 98 % of fresh figs.

There are hundreds of varieties of figs but the most popular are the Kadota with light green skin and sweet white flesh, the Brown Turkey ranges in color from brown to copper with a very fragrant flavor and the Black Mission has a deep purple to black skin with sweet pink flesh.

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes June 16, 2019

Cotton Candy grapes, Washington Dark Sweet and Rainier cherries coming this week! Breba fig crop has started up out of the Central Valley. California Heat Wave affects some crops availability and prices going up. Read the full blog here.

Dwelley Farms

Growing in Brentwood since 1921, Dwelley Family Farms has taken great pride in offering a large variety of premium fruits and vegetables.  Brentwood’s unique microclimate of hot valley days combined with the cool coastal evening breezes creates a perfect condition for growing produce. Sustainability farming practices and how they impact the environment, has allowed the Dwelley’s, generations of producing the healthiest and best tasting produce.  It is said that for the entire Dwelley family, farming has never been just an occupation.  It is a way of life!

Dwelley Farms in Brentwood will have a good supply of Blue Lake Beans and Zucchini throughout the season. The week of June 10th we will see limited quantities of French beans, Romano beans, Yellow wax beans, Gold Bar, Sunburst and Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash and Coral Cherries. Sweet Dwelley corn is just a few weeks away!

Robert Lichtenberg, Director of Purchasing for Earl’s with Patrick Johnston of Dwelley Farms

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes June 9, 2019

Dwelley Farms in Brentwood will have a good supply of Blue Lake Beans and Zucchini throughout the season. This week we will see limited quantities of French beans, Romano beans, Yellow wax beans, Gold Bar, Sunburst and Yellow Crookneck Summer Squash and Coral Cherries. Sweet Dwelley corn is just a few weeks away!

Whitney Ranch Blueberries

Ralph Whitney is our first grower to participate in the 1964 Olympics for water polo! Ralph and Rachel Whitney moved to California 25 years ago because his fellow water polo friend had property in Santa Barbara.  They partnered with their friend and a few other investors to begin growing lemons and avocados in Carpinteria. The ranch is located about 1 mile inland from the ocean in a small valley with very few pests. They have never needed to use any pesticides which made their move to becoming certified organic that much easier. In 1999 they disbanded, took their 10 acres and begin working with a farm advisor to started experimenting with blueberry varieties. Originally they planted 5,000 blueberry bushes on 2.5 acres and now they have 10,000 bushes on 3 acres with some of the original 2001 varieties still producing.

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Rachel and Ralph Whitney

In order to grow blueberries there must be bees. Whitney Ranch has a symbiotic relationship with the almond growers from the central San Joaquin Valley. The almond growers need a place to store their bees during the winter and the Whitney’s need the bees to pollinate their blueberries.  Whitney Ranch was abuzz with so many bees that the ranch is now covered in a blanket of blossoms and fruit. The mild weather in Carpinteria allows their blueberries to ripen over a longer period of time and to develop a more complex flavor.  When Ralph and Rachel are not growing blueberries they can be found “driving off into the sunset” on their motorcycles or in their motor home.

Buying and storing tips: 
Look for firm, dry, plump and smooth skinned berries. The silvery bloom on the outside of the berry is a sign of freshness!

Fun Fact: 
California produced 7,112,515 pounds of organic blueberries in 2014

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes June 2, 2019

Beautiful California Cherries, yellow wax beans, romano beans and French Beans just in from Dwelley Farms in Brentwood!

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