Earl’s Organic fondly remembers John Pizza from Washington Vegetable Company. John, a prominent leader of the San Francisco Produce Market, passed away on Friday evening. Earl started buying from the Market back in 1980 when Washington Vegetable was THE vegetable house. Earl would come down around midnight and walk the Market for a few hours. If you wanted to get the best greens, especially leaf lettuce you went to Washington Vegetable. Earl remembers John schooling him on the proper etiquette of the market. “You buy all your stuff from us. That way we take care of you when the market is tight.” Earl remembers replying “What if your quality isn’t good?” John told him “Don’t worry. We will take care of you.” Earl built his relationship with John and Washington Vegetable over the years and knew he could always expect quality product. John will be missed by all of us on the Market.
A Visitation will be held on Tuesday, from 5pm to 7pm with a Rosary at 6:30pm at Halsted N. Gray – Carew & English, 1123 Sutter St. SF. A Funeral Mass will be held on Wednesday at 10:30am at Saints Peter & Paul Church, 666 Filbert St., SF. Private Interment.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the following: Hospice By The Bay, 17 E. Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Larkspur, CA94939, and Saints Peter and Paul Church, Becoming Towers of Strength, 666 Filbert Street, San Francisco, CA94133
Peach and nectarine season is just around the corner! Generally speaking we start seeing peaches around May 1st and the season can continue into September. We can look forward to the many varieties changing about every 1 to 2 weeks.
Imagine in about a month that these little pieces of fruit, as small as your finger, will be sizing up. The only difference between peaches and nectarines is that peaches are covered in a light fuzz. Below you can see three small Polar Light white nectarines growing closely together. One of the growers jobs is to thin out the fruit on the tree as they size up so they don’t rub against each other.
Chandley Logsdon, one of Earl’s employees, is a recent product of UCLA, with a degree in Spanish and a flair for healthful food. Upon employment, she was offered an opportunity to learn the underpinnings of the retail world before joining Earl’s team. Chandley’s blog documents her experience thus far:
Last spring, I asked my professor to sponsor me for an independent research project on the labor standards of contemporary, undocumented farm workers in Santa Barbara County. As I interviewed migrant avocado pickers and enrolled in a California Agriculture course at Cal a permanent seed of food-interest was planted within me that has since sprouted into a fascination I can’t control. Food blogs and documentaries, seminars, and farm research began to consume my free time. Words and places and authors like Novela Carpenter, Cesar Chavez, Alice Waters, fair trade, seasonality of foods, and Berkeley filled my vocabulary and molded my opinions. That is how I landed an internship working with imported citrus in the summer of 2012, which in turn, lead me to Earl’s Organic where I am finally in the position to see the food chain operate firsthand. My blog is not so much a timeline as it is a journal of lessons learned and anecdotes of precious moments.
“Imagine if we had a food system that actually produced wholesome food. Imagine if it produced that food in a way that restored the land. Imagine if we could eat every meal knowing these few simple things: What it is we’re eating. Where it came from. How it found its way to our table. And what it really cost… But we can change the way we make and get our food so that it becomes food again—something that feeds our bodies and our souls. Imagine it: Every meal would connect us to the joy of living and the wonder of nature.”- Michael Pollan
Thirty-five miles South of San Francisco is the town of Half Moon Bay(HMB). It rests quietly in the fog from the Pacific where coastal farms harvest some of the best organic foods. We at Earl’s have a tight partnership with New Leaf Community Market where I spent two weeks working in the produce department. After a brief tour and introduction from the Produce Director, I was sent to work the floor. It was a drink-from-the-fire hose learning curve – I had responsibilities to fulfill just like the rest of the employees. Usually, the day began by browsing the fruit display looking for scarcity. A few cases of avocados would be removed from the coolers and put on the shelf to create a full and abundant looking display. I learned about product rotation and educated customers on foods. Long time employees schooled me on their store policies, customer tendencies, seasonality, and local farms. Through these daily tasks, I was better able to understand our importance at Earl’s and how handling the product with integrity is a crucial aspect in maintaining an efficient and effective supply chain.
In addition to encouraging organics, the store commits to having a relationship with small local growers by selling their fruits and vegetables and advertises the name of the farm. To me this is huge. The store takes an extra step to make a difference in supporting the community’s small farms. With my notepad and pen in hand, I jotted down all the facts, including my own personal thoughts and observations. The people at this store caught my attention, and taught me lessons too.
One of my first lessons came from Helen, a middle seventies snowbird and long- standing store customer. She was eying the persimmons one day as I stacked them. I laid the orange fruit, newest to oldest, on a strong nest of their brothers and sisters. Using one of the retail strategies I learned about juxtaposition of products, I built their sturdy mound next to the ruddy Bartlett Pears. This contrast has a funny effect on a shopper; they see the color break and their eyes tell them they must have this fruit. Helen’s reaction lived up to that of a typical customer. Purchasers of produce are impulse buyers; whatever stands out ends up in their reusable shopping bags. I noticed Helen puzzled by the persimmons; she had never seen them before. Many natural food stores have a standing modus operandi; all customers have the right to request a sample of any product displayed. Eager to facilitate the introduction, I sliced her some of the orange colored fruit and watched her walk out with a half dozen. Later that week, she returned to thank me and bought a dozen more for her daughters. Conversing with long-time and recent foodies, sharing and introducing new foods were the moments I enjoyed most. These Half Moon Bay citizens first pick is not a shiny, uniformly ripened, conventional product; they are making a conscious food selection by choosing local and organic and that is something to be admired.
HMB New Leaf set a tough example to follow as I returned to the city to work retail in El Cerrito and Berkeley. Over the following weeks I had a new realization. I began to see that the produce department is a direct reflection of our farmland, season, and the weather. It is ever-changing and evolving; cold snaps, heat waves, deep frosts, and other environmental factors influence the produce we see every day. During the month of November, El Cerrito Natural Grocery had over 50 apple varietals on display. I was amazed that every apple was different from its neighbor, not just in size and color, but also in density, acidity, sweetness, and aroma. Days were spent sampling Cherrie-Apples, Winesaps, and Pink Ladies. With winter upon us, I am certain the store has the most beautiful spread of citrus covering the floor. I respected such seasonal variety because buying seasonally usually means lower prices, more flavorful products, and a smaller carbon footprint due to less travel. This retail store, although small, also prided itself on having nearly-impossible-to-find fruits like Cherimoyas, Guava berries and Mango Oranges. Specialization in seasonal and rare product implants a piece of local knowledge that makes customers proud to say, “Green garlic? I know just the place!”
While New Leaf customers boasted the highest food IQ, and El Cerrito Natural Grocery the best niche products, by far the largest store I had to opportunity to learn from was in Berkeley Bowl West. This store moves product at high volume and strives to offer competitive prices for their consumers; it felt like a Wal-Mart for natural foods. One can buy Frosted Flakes and Heritage Flakes in the same aisle. One element I was quite fond of was their conscious effort to minimize waste. One of my primary duties here was identifying and sorting “culls” while rotating the product. When fruits and vegetables are rotated, the flawed produce is sifted out and put into the culls pile. For example, after bananas are picked off the tree, we as a distributor or retailers can accelerate the ripening process, by monitoring its environments temperature. Therefore, bananas are rated on a number system of “yellowness,” level one being dead green and level seven being full color with slight freckling. If the temperature is poorly adjusted, the bananas skin will turn a muted yellow color that would quickly find itself culled from the shelf. The culls are then given away to employees, food banks or composted. Consumers are not tolerant of flawed produce. Usually, culls are flavorsome, and have but the slightest of blemishes. Let’s face it; we can be fussy at times wanting a perfect diamond ring, a scratch-free car, and of course a perfectly yellowed level six banana. If we did not turn our nose up at flecked fruits and vegetables we could save a lot more time, money, and most of all, food. An employee told me “we don’t like to waste. Sometimes the food will have little bruising or scarring, but the taste is not forfeited,” so the imperfect produce gets bagged and sold at a discounted rate. This shelf is loved by those who want produce to make juices, smoothies, salsa, or baked goods.
As I look back at the arc of my agriculture experience the past year, from that fateful research project, to the citrus internship, to the conclusion of my retail experience, and now my introduction into Earl’s team I have been enlightened. Since adopting a mostly plant-based diet, I’ve become mindful of ingredients, where they came from, and how they got to my plate. I am not only more knowledgeable of our country’s food chain, but I’m now a facilitating member of the process with Earl’s. Working with an organic company who promotes sustainable agriculture and food trade and working with growers and customers who strive for the same goals is gratifying. The amount of energy, money and hard work needed to fill our grocery stores is something to be appreciated. Awareness of the process makes for a wiser consumer. The names I read in books have become my role models and I feel that I have the ability to carry out their philosophy, not just by living my life that way, but making it possible for others to live that way too through Earl’s Organic. Thank you Earl, participating retailers and wonderful staff for your patience and making this experience possible.
It is with great sorrow that we announce the passing of our beloved Human Resources manager, Fannie Alexander. Fannie had been with Earl’s for 18 years and during her tenure her ambition took her from the accounts payable department to the head of Human Resources. She was driven, dependable, and ran her department with great poise. While her presence will be deeply missed, her legacy will live on in the friends and colleagues that she touched during her time at Earl’s.
Earl’s Organic Produce has been a strong supporter of MALT(Marin Agriculture Land Trust) for many years. MALT is a private, member-supported non-profit organization created in 1980 by a coalition of ranchers and environmentalists to permanently preserve Marin County farmland for agricultural use. MALT eliminates the development potential on farmland through the acquisition of conservation easements in voluntary transactions with landowners. MALT also promotes public awareness and encourages policies which support and enhance agriculture.
On March 14th, MALT celebrated the recent hiring of Executive Director Jamison Watts with a night of cocktails, hors d’ouevres and conversation at the historic Escalle Winery in Larkspur. Escalle Winery produces some of the finest Marin-grown, ultra small production Pinot Noirs and is never open to the public, so this was a very special night.
Jamison Watts has led MALT as its Executive Director since January of 2013. Prior to joining MALT, Jamison served as the Executive Director of the Northern California Regional Land Trust for six years, and as a wildlife biologist and environmental consultant for more than a decade. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology with an emphasis in Conservation Biology from the University of California at Davis and a master’s degree in Biological Sciences from California State University at Chico. He is a recipient of the Jack Rawlins Ecology and Conservation Award and the Research and Creativity Award, both from California State University at Chico.
MALT offers many tours and fun events throughout the year. You can keep up with all of their events on Earl’s Events tab on Facebook.
Earl’s Organic sponsored the Soil Building, Water, Biodiversity and Climate Change Farm Field Day, part of the California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) Farming For The Future 2013 Summit February 20-21 at UC Davis. UC Davis was originally designed as a farm school and students were called “aggies”. I am an aggie and was very excited to be back visiting my alma mater.
CalCAN is a coalition that works to advance policies to support California agriculture in the face of climate change. They advocate that agriculture can play a proactive role in responding to the climate crisis by reducing its carbon footprint and thus helping to ensure the long-term viability and security of our food and farming system. Retrieved from http://www.calclimateag.org
One third of global CO2 emissions come from agriculture and land use changes such as forest clearing. Fertilizer applications account for most all of the world’s nitrous oxide emissions (a greenhouse gas 298 times more potent than CO2), and agriculture contributes two-thirds of all methane emissions (25 times more potent than CO2). California, with a huge agricultural economy is the twelfth largest producer of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the world, and agriculture is responsible for six percent of GHG emissions in California, according to the Scoping Plan pursuant to California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32). Retrieved from http://www.calclimateag.org
I personally love growing vegetables on my small front porch but I didn’t have an intricate knowledge and understanding of the essential roles nitrogen and carbon play in the growing process. Nitrogen is one of the most important nutrients for crop growth and carbon is needed to increase crop productivity and enhance soil and water quality. However if there is too much nitrogen and carbon released into the atmosphere this can cause a greenhouse effect we all know as global warming.
While at UCD we toured 2 working farms and a research facility where we witnessed how agriculture practices can affect climate change and what farmers and researchers are doing to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
Farmers use many techniques to slow down the effects of climate change including cover crops, composting, planting trees and reducing synthetic fertilizer use and tillage. These techniques can help store large amounts of greenhouse gases in the ground, potentially reducing the growth of GHG levels and at the same time improve water quality, increase soil fertility and agricultural productivity. We were able to see some of these practices at work as we began our tour.
We started at The UC Davis Student Farm where Mark Van Horn, Student Farm Director, showed us both the student Market and Ecological farms. The students sell the produce grown on the Market farm at farmers markets and the UCD Coffee House to raise funds for the Market production. The farms are certified organic and focus on teaching a wide diversity of skills year round including direct seeding and transplanting of crops, growing transplants in the greenhouse, field preparation, irrigation, cultivation, pest management, harvesting, packing and marketing. They have an average of about 150 students which fluctuates based on the season. The Ecological garden is a half-acre with flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees and chickens. It provides an opportunity to teach students, grade school students and adult visitors about ecological horticulture.
Both farms use compost and cover crops to improve the quality of the soil. Compost contains nutrients not found in synthetic fertilizers which can improve plant health and growth. It also helps improve water drainage and holding capacity and reduces erosion. A huge pile of compost largely consisting of sheep manure borders the Market garden. The compost, rich in organic matter, has to be kept at a minimum of 130 degrees for a specific amount of days in order to be used on the fields. (pic)
Cover crops are used to improve nitrogen content in the soil, contain weeds, protect soil from runoff and suppress soil diseases and pests. Nitrogen is vital for plants but most nitrogen is available only in gas form which most plants can’t use. Cover crops, such as legumes are used because they can take the nitrogen from the air and store it in their roots. Nitrogen fixing plants need help from Rhizobium, a bacteria that affects legume plants, in order to take in the nitrogen and store it. The nitrogen causes lumps on the roots to form called nitrogen nodules. Only a little nitrogen goes into the soil while the cover crops are growing but when they die the stored nitrogen is release into the soil rather than the atmosphere. Mark pulled up some legumes to show us the nodules in the roots where nitrogen is contained. (pic)
Our second stop was Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility with over 300 acres dedicated to agriculture research in a Mediterranean climate. Their largest and longest research project is a 100 year old study started in 1993 to measure the long-term impacts of crop rotation farming systems and the inputs of water and nitrogen on agriculture sustainability. There are 72 one acre plots with a mix of conventional, hybrid(conventional with cover crops) and organic systems. The crops include alfalfa, corn, native grasses, tomato, wheat and sunflowers. The researchers and students measure crop yields, crop nutrient levels, soil quality, biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and economic returns for each plot. One of the largest questions is “Can we increase our sustainability as we increase our food production?”
Another study at Russell Ranch investigates the impact of biochar applications on soil carbon, soil microbiology and greenhouse gas emissions. Biochar is charcoal that is used for agricultural purposes and is a way to remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil for a long time. It is made from organic biomass such as manure, wood or agricultural byproducts. It is spread on the fields and then worked into the soil to help increase crop yields, help to prevent fertilizer runoff and leaching, replenish soil with organic carbon, and encourage the growth of soil microbes essential for nutrient absorption.
Our last stop was Sierra Orchards, a 450 acre organic walnut orchard started in 1980 in Winters, CA right next to Davis. Originally, 325 acres of the land grew tomatoes until 1997 when the walnut trees were planted. Craig McNamara, owner, farmer and environmentalist, uses sustainable practices in all aspects of the farm. Over half of the fertilizer is derived from cover crops and the rest is from compost. He doesn’t use tillage, has planted hedge rows to create a habitat for pollinators and uses drip irrigation which is the most effective way to conserve water. He wants to have the type of agriculture that positively impacts people who farm, the planet, and farm profitability.
Putah Creek nearby is an important part of the conservation efforts on the farm. Recently they have narrowed and deepened the creek to make a faster rushing stream. Ideally they would like this to be a place for migrating fish like salmon. His goal is to work with nature; Craig says “farmers just want best management practices”.
Sierra Orchards is also a state wide center for land based learning with over 2000 students and 5000 visitors a year. He wants the next generation to be well versed in sustainability so they share what they have learned and have a deep connection to the land.
While numerous farmers, academics, and policy makers have made huge strides in recent years in discovering new techniques for reducing the GHG impact of agricultural production, there is much work still to be done. The question still remains: How can we disseminate these larger techniques into large scale commercial agriculture to ensure the long term viability of our food systems and reduce the environmental impact of the agriculture industry? There is no easy answer but I have never met a group of people more dedicated to coming up with ways to solve the problem.
While representatives from Earl’s sales department met with customers, vendors, and fellow distributors at the Organicology conference in Portland, Kathy met with sustainability coordinators from various organic food businesses at an intensive seminar, Sustainability 101, hosted by the Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA). SFTA is a non-profit trade association and community of food related businesses that works to expand the understanding and use of sustainable business practices within the organic food trade. SFTA works with its members to facilitate the creation of sustainability strategies, performance benchmarking, the collaboration and sharing of best practices, and the of spread knowledge and information through webinars and workshops.
Earl’s Organic has long been committed to sustainability; for years we have been composting and recycling, purchasing recycled paper and recycled office supplies whenever possible, using only non toxic cleaning supplies, purchasing all organic cotton company apparel, reusing pallets, and participating in the market corporation’s green team. In 2013, however, Earl’s decided the company needed to take its commitment to sustainability to the next level and create a formalized sustainability program and method for tracking its progress and performance.
Kathy’s background in sustainability leadership made her a suitable candidate to coordinate the project and she has since been tasked with working with the SFTA to create a formal sustainability program, convene and direct an internal sustainability team, begin to track and record Earl’s Organics’ usage metrics, write Earl’s first annual sustainability report, and manage projects to reduce the environmental impact of our office and warehouse operations.
Since the New Year Earl’s has already made strides towards greening our office and warehouse operations. We have made significant upgrades to our internal composting and recycling programs in attempt to increase our waste diversion rate and make progress towards our goal of operating a zero waste facility. In addition, we began working with the San Francisco Water Department as part of their pilot program to test the viability of turning anaerobically digested food scraps into energy. As a result, in addition to reducing food waste, this project is sequestering carbon and methane gases (two powerful green house gases emitted during the normal composting process) and producing a source of renewable energy. Furthermore, we are working with our landlord, the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market Corporation, to construct a parklet in Earl’s parking lot to increase the publically available green space for employees to use and enjoy.
Kathy will soon begin recruiting fellow Earl’s employees to join her sustainability team. The team will be comprised of a diverse array of employees from each department who can assist with the collection of usage metrics, set department goals, and advocate for and implement intradepartmental improvements. Earl’s will use its metrics to produce an annual sustainability report outlining our annual environmental impact, demonstrating our monthly and annual progress, and identifying areas for future improvement. Through this process Earl’s aims to become more conscientious of the impact our operations have on our employees, our customers and vendors, and our community and the environment and to use this understanding to manage our progress towards our long term environmental goals.
California asparagus is here at Earl’s! We have been eagerly awaiting the beautiful bunches of green stalks with purple tinged tips. Whether you grill, steam, stir fry or gently peel for a spring salad, asparagus is delicious.
Our California asparagus comes from Coastal View Produce a 3rd generation Violini family farm located in Gonzales, CA in the heart of the Salinas Valley, who has been growing high-quality organic asparagus for over 30 years. Brian Violini’s Grandfather was a Swiss immigrant who started a new life in the fertile Salinas Valley. “I can remember being 10 years old and pulling weeds and moving sprinklers for my grandfather,” says Brian Violini, who now runs Coastal View Produce with his brother. “We’ve had this farm for three generations. My grandfather started with a dairy and then moved into farming. My dad and my uncle ran the farm after him, and now it’s me and my brother. Farming, it’s all we know.”
California produces over 70 percent of the nation’s fresh market asparagus with over 20,000 acres, followed by Michigan and Washington. The height of the season in California runs from March to June. California asparagus is mainly grown at the confluence of California’s two greatest rivers, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, in the rich peat of the delta lands an hour south of Sacramento. Salinas Valley, the Central Coast, Coachella-Imperial Valley area and Santa Barbara County are also considered prime growing areas. Asparagus was originally planted in the delta region in 1852 but the interest in growing asparagus commercially wasn’t until the early 1900’s.
Asparagus is a perennial crop producing year after year. The crowns are planted in long beds deep in the ground. New hybrid varieties can produce for a few weeks after a year in the ground and older varieties may take up to 3 years to produce. Once the plant is established it can produce for 10 years or longer. The stalks only turn green when they are exposed to the sun and develop chlorophyll. White asparagus is covered with mounds of sand so they are never exposed to the sun and is said to have a milder flavor than green asparagus. As the weather warms, a single asparagus spear can grow anywhere from 6 to 10 inches in a single day.
The field workers tediously cut asparagus spears by hand with a special razor sharp curved knife, laying them at the end of the rows to be picked up later. Once the asparagus are done being harvested for the season they go to fern, the tips turn feathery, which allows the plants to transfer carbohydrates and energy to the roots by photosynthesis and to store nutrients in the crowns.
The size of the spears comes from the age of the plant. The youngest plants produce the skinny stalks and the thicker spears from older plants are sweeter and juicier because they contain higher levels of carbohydrates. Look for bright solid spears with no blemishes, firm tightly closed tips and avoid wilted looking stalks. Choose bunches with freshly cut ends and take a quick sniff, asparagus should have a fresh grassy smell with no odor of rot.
Try to eat them as soon as you buy them but they can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator. Place them upright in the refrigerator in a dish of water or wrap a damp paper towel around the base and secure with a rubber band before storing in a plastic bag in your vegetable bin.
When you’re ready to eat them, snap or cut off the woody white portion at the bottom end of the asparagus. They’re perfect coated with olive oil and roasted, which leaves them firmer, nuttier and sweeter than steaming. Asparagus is high vitamin C and K and folic acid and contain less than 50 calories per 6 oz serving. Click here for recipes.
If you have ever had strange side effects, from eating asparagus it is because of the high levels of asparagusic acid, volatile organic compounds, including forms of sulfur, which are metabolized and then passed very quickly, in as little as 15 minutes, into the urine. Retrieved from Field Guide to California Agriculture by Paul F. Starrs and Peter Goin.
Earl’s has anaheim, jalapeno and poblano chile peppers from Covilli in Guaymas, Mexico on special this week and next!
Anaheim chilies are mild. Try roasting and peeling them to bring out their flavor. Anaheims are about 6 inches long on average which makes them perfect for stuffing. They are delicious stuffed with cheese.
Jalapenos are one of the most common chilies and easy to find. They are about 2 inches long with a medium heat. If you like your dishes spicy you might want to add a bit more than the recipe calls for. Smoked dried jalapenos are called chipotles.
Poblano chilies have a lot of flavor and although usually mild you can sometimes get a hot one. They are great in soups and sauces and in dried form they are called ancho chilies. Ancho means wide or broad, perfectly describing the shape of the chili.
Earl’s Organic has had a long term relationship with Covilli Brand Organics since 1997. Recently they have been expanding their operations and acreage in Guyamas, Mexico. Patrick Stewart, head of sales at Earl’s and a local bay area produce buyer recently visited Covilli to tour the farm and better understand the operations and production of one of our strategic growers and partners. Patrick feels that it is important to connect growers and retail customers.
Covilli, a family owned and operated business, began in 1972 as Circle Produce Company, with 80 acres that would eventually grow to over 1000 acres. Covilli is located inland from the picturesque beaches of Guaymas. In 1990 they made the transition to organic. Their strict adherence to the NOP Guidelines and Third Party Food Safety Certification, shows their commitment to quality and organic production. Covilli Brand Organics continues to lead the industry with the highest global food safety rating; Primus GFS, ensuring exceptional care from the field to your home.
The rich coastal soil in Sonora and Covilli’s high levels of agricultural integrity provides the ideal conditions for consistently high quality produce every season. Covilli is currently growing a wide array of warm vegetables such as zucchini, sugar snap peas, bell peppers, eggplant, brussells sprouts, a variety of peppers and some winter squash. In the spring from around the end of March through May a varietal of melons are grown including Sugar Baby Watermelon, Honeydew, Orange Flesh, Charentais and Galia.
The first day at Covilli was spent on the fields and in the packing house. Most of the produce is picked and packed into plastic bins on the field. From there it goes into the packing shed where it is sorted for quality and size. Then about 80% goes through the hydro cooler where cold water will wash the produce and take out the field heat so the quality will remain from the time of harvest to your kitchen table. The other 20% goes through a machine containing a solution that is mostly water mixed with a very small amount of hydrogen peroxide compound certified for organic production. This solution sanitizes the produce by nebulization, creating a mist that does not get the product wet. Produce such as tomatoes can’t be put through a water bath or it will start to break down. The produce is then put onto pallets and stored in coolers until they are ready to be packed onto trucks for delivery.
The second day was spent visiting the greenhouses and heated hoop houses. Greenhouses are sealed and semi-permanent. Every other row has air tubes with holes that are fed from an industrial heater to keep the greenhouses at a minimum temperature. Covilli is now growing cucumbers, English cucumbers, bell peppers, eggplant and tomatoes inside the greenhouses. Melons and zucchinis are grown on the field.
Around the farm there are many boxes full of honey bees in the field and bumble bees for the greenhouses. The honey bees are used to pollinate the field and the bumble bees are used in the greenhouse. In particular tomato flowers must undergo vibrations for successful pollination. The bumble uses its wings to create a buzzing vibration that shakes the flower to distribute its pollen. Honeybees and other pollinators do not have the ability to shake the tomato’s flowers. The bees also pollinate raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, sweet peppers and melons. (Source: ehow.com)
Patrick noticed that Covilli looked like other agricultural operations in the United States except for a few things. The farm is surrounded by mesquite wood and they are very resourceful at using the wood for fence posts and stakes. The farm is also gated with a security guard with a sign in sheet to track who has been on the land for food safety reasons.
The trip to Covilli was successful in making an important connection between our growers and customers. Any opportunity to introduce and educate always turns out mutually beneficial. Patrick “finds traveling to farms, both local and afar, incredibly enriching. It’s great to be able to change and solidify my own standardized perceptions.”
Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for photos of melons as they start to arrive sometime in March.