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Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes April 28, 2019

We have moved completely into California avocados! We will have abundant supplies for Cinco de Mayo. Forbidden Blueberry pints are done. We are finishing the Forbidden season with 6oz clamshells. Homegrown Pints out of the central San Joaquin Valley will come on in about 10 days just in time for Mother’s Day. Keep your eyes open for promotions as we get closer to the holiday!

Traveling the I-5 to Cal-Organics

By Carson Evers

It’s early morning on the bustling San Francisco Produce Market and we are set up to leave for our Cal-O farm tour down to Arvin, California which is just Southeast of Bakersfield. We get into Earl’s car along with Ted, Director of Operations and Mitch, QA IC and we set out on our journey.

It’s a long drive down to Arvin, about 4.5 hours if you don’t hit any traffic but with Earl behind the wheel we figure we make it in just over 4. The drive is split between two main highways: the 101, which we are all familiar with, then head East on the 152 for a short bit were we eventually hit Interstate 5 that takes us the rest of the way south.

Interstate 5 does not have the best reputation for being a scenic or very entertaining drive. It is mostly rows and rows and more rows of crops, orchards, and empty fields. This makes sense since we are cutting through the largest agricultural region in the entire world, the famous San Joaquin Valley. I can relate how all this farm land scenery can seem boring to the average person but when you are in a car with some produce guys a drive down the I-5 is anything but boring.

It was almost a game of guess that crop as we passed through the valley and several different farms. “Almonds trees on the left!” one of us would exclaim.  “Look at the size of those grapevines! You think they are for table grapes or raisins?” “Why are there nets on those trees?” one of us would ask. “Possibly for birds, maybe pests, or to reduce pollination to get seedless citrus?” someone else would explain.  It seemed like all these endless observations would spark a deeper conversation into that particular crop or farming method with each person contributing their own knowledge on said subject.

With the windows down and 80 degree sunny weather shining upon us, the citrus blossom aroma heavy in the air we wrap up our current conversation about the oil history of Bakersfield as we pull into the Grimmway headquarters parking lot. It is a modern looking building that seems like it had been built fairly recently. We stand outside in the parking lot for a while and stretch out and joke that this might be the best day of the year, at least weather wise to visit Arvin. We wait for the slower car of Earl’s people to arrive.

We were lucky, and a bit surprised, that the President of Cal-Organics, Jeff Huckaby, decided to personally give us the tour of the fields and carrot processing facilities. It was obvious pretty quickly that this guy knew every aspect of his operations and that he came from a growing background. It fascinating all of the very clever farming practices/ techniques they had implemented over the years. There was a ton of these farming “hacks”, if you will, but my favorite had to be the clay coated seed technique they used for weed control at the beginning of planting lettuces. Basically they coat the seeds in clay which delays the germination process by just a bit allowing the weeds to germinate and grow before the plant does. This delay allows the growers to go into the fields and burn all the weeds before the lettuce plant pokes its head out of the ground. Not only does this help with weed control but also cuts down on labor costs.

Jeff Huckaby, President of Cal-Organics

We saw it all, gold potato fields, radish fields, green onion fields, and leeks but nothing really held any merit to the engineering mastery we were all about to witness. We drive up to the heavily secure carrot plant facility, get our nametags at the front gate and head over to some large hanger-like buildings. Inside these buildings is the massive machine known as simply the Carrot Harvester. This thing was an absolute unit of engine and metal and completely built from scratch by Cal-Organic AG engineers. But even the Carrot Harvester in all its glory was no match for what was next.

Enter the largest carrot processing facility in the entire world and you’ll never really look at baby peeled carrots in the same way again. The best way I can describe it at first sight is like the amusement park ride the “Log Ride” but for carrots….a sea of carrots. Sorting machines, washing machines, sizing machines, laser guided quality control machines, polishing machines and more gears/ gadgets were all a part of this incredible Carrot Log Ride. I compare it to a log ride because all the carrots are moved by floating in water which is apparently the easiest and most efficient mode of transporting carrots.

Shannon Waldron, Earl’s Organic Produce Buyer

After a long day of touring the fields and the processing facility we headed to the Padre hotel located in downtown Bakersfield. There we had dinner on the outside patio/ rooftop with some of the Cal-O guys. It was a four course meal that was heavily carrot themed…seemed appropriate. After a night of wining and dining we headed on back to the Bay and another car ride full of conversation sparked by window observations.

I have a greater respect for Cal-O after that trip and feel a lot more optimistic about the future of the organic industry. Cal-O understands the importance of taking care of their soil and have seen the benefits from organic farming not only environmentally but also economically. From the words of Jeff, Cal-O’s organic fields yield better, have less pest issues and are much better for the microbial health of the land long term. Jeff was a strong advocate of organics and admits he is a convert from the conventional farming mentality.

Overall it was a great trip, great hosts, great people, more knowledge and yet another personal affirmation to me that we are apart of something special and should feel lucky to be in the business we are in. Make the world organic whether it be small farms or big farms. We are all on the same team.

Earl’s Organic Commitment to Sustainability

At Earl’s Organic Produce, we extend our commitment to sustainability beyond our organic products by practicing the three Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle – in all aspects of our business operations. Below are several examples of ways we have lessened our ecological footprint:

  • Earl’s Organic is a Certified San Francisco Green Business
  • Waste Management – we compost and recycle in both the office and warehouse to significantly decrease landfill-bound refuse. Our diversion rate is 96%!
  • Prevent Food Waste- Donate over 250,000 lbs of produce yearly to organizations around the Bay Area including the San Francisco Food Bank and the San Francisco Produce Market Food Recovery program.
  • Pallet Reuse – we return pallets for reuse to decrease the amount of hardwood lumber harvested for pallet production.
  • Energy Efficiency – Earl’s Organic Produce is proud to be an inaugural member of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s (SPUC) Clean Power SF “Super Green” Program. Electing into the “Super Green” option means that our 30,000 sq. ft. warehouse is now powered by 100% certified renewable energy. With the Clean Power SF Program, Earl’s Organic Produce can now focus on reaching our goals of becoming a zero waste and carbon neutral facility. Watch the Super Green video here http://bit.ly/earlscleanpowervideo
  • Trucks- all of our trucks use biofuel
  • WAREHOUSE
    • Automated high speed cooler doors saves money by opening and closing faster than traditional doors helping to keep temperatures stable. Less moving parts, lighter materials and self re-tracking doors make for a virtually maintenance free door system.
    • Energy saving high frequency smart chargers for all forklifts and pallet jacks. The technology charges the battery at the highest rate of power for the shortest time saving hours of charging time.
    • LED lighting with motion sensors through-out the warehouse.
  • Office Operations- we use 30% post-consumer content, chlorine free paper for all office printing and purchase planet-friendly office products whenever available
  • Green Cleaning – we use biodegradable, non-toxic cleaning products throughout our office and warehouse
  • Organic Fabrics – all company garments are made from organic cotton and bamboo cotton
  • Education – we are a source of information to our growers, customers, and the community regarding organic produce and sustainable agriculture
  • Participation – we are proud members of the San Francisco Produce Market Green Team

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes April 21, 2019

Earl’s Organic is committed to sustainability every day. We are part of the SF Super Green Program and use 100% renewable energy. Learn more about our sustainability program.

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes April 14, 2019

NEW! Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Sweet and tender bunches grown in the Pacific Northwest.  It looks similar to baby broccoli but with deep purple florets. In Earl’s kitchen we steamed it lightly for 2 minutes and it maintained its pretty purple color. Organic Love Beets are now here!

Rhubarb- Fruit or Vegetable?

The arrival of shiny crimson red rhubarb is yet another sign that spring has arrived. It is a hearty vegetable that thrives in cooler climates and originally came by way of China, Russia and Mongolia where it was first used as a medicinal herb to treat a variety of illnesses. Rhubarb made its debut in the United States in the late 18th century when Luther Burbank, a world-renowned horticulturist, developed a deep red variety that thrived in much of California’s climate.  Rhubarb grows best in the northern regions of the United States.  It can be found grown on a commercial level in Oregon, Washington and Michigan. Rhubarb from the Pacific Northwest is all field grown and the season runs from late March until the end of June.  The Michigan season begins in April with hothouse grown rhubarb and later moves to field grown.

Rhubarb is very weather dependent and needs a summer temperature of 75° or below for maximum production. Once the temperatures reach 90° or above the plant will start to wilt. Rhubarb is a perennial herb grown from a crown, similar to asparagus, and will continue to produce up to 15 years.

Warning!

Only eat the leaf stalks or petioles. This is one vegetable where you do not want to use the whole plant. The leaves can be considered poisonous due to their high levels of oxalic acid.

How to buy

Look for bright red stalks which have a sweet rich flavor. The size of the stalk is not an indicator of tenderness!

Fun Fact

Rhubarb is 95% water and high in potassium and vitamin c.

Storage and Cooking

Wrap loosely in plastic and store in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Do not keep for more than a few days or it will start to dry out. Place the stalks in cold water for about an hour to refresh them before cooking.

Rhubarb is very tart and acidic and needs honey or sugar to transform it into a delicious dessert or savory dish. It goes great with seafood, chicken or pork. Everyone has heard of strawberry rhubarb pie but how about a rhubarb shake topped with chopped pistachios? Cook down your rhubarb with honey and let cool. Blend with greek yogurt and ice and mix in rose water to taste. Sprinkle with chopped pistachios and share with your friends!

Spring Transition

We are still in the middle of a rough spring transition. Mexico crops are soon to finish and California does not have the supply to meet the demand on warm summer veg (Zucchini, Colored Bells, Tomatoes and Eggplant) due to frequent storms leading to disruptions in planting and harvesting cycles.  The growing areas move north from Mexico and the California desert to the Salinas Valley for cooler weather summer veg (Lettuce, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Celery) and to Fresno for warmer crops (Peppers, Corn, Tomatoes, Beans and Eggplant).  

As growers are still transitioning organic buyers can expect fluctuating supplies on many commodities including broccoli, cauliflower, baby bok choy and of course celery.

Organic Celery Market on Fire… with no relief in sight

Excerpts from Organic Produce Network article April 4, 2019

A celery juicing craze touted by some health advocates and celebrities has been cited as a potential reason for the celery shortage but it is most likely due to the frequent storms (mentioned above). The industry does not expect the supply of organic celery to even come close to the demand for several months. It takes crops from 40 to 90 days to grow when planted in the cold winter months.  As the temperature warms up, those growth cycles are shorter but they are still long enough that it is close to impossible to make it up when you lose a week or longer of planting time.  Speaking of the entire organic vegetable production organic growers are saying we are going to see big fluctuations between now and July.    

The roller coaster rides are going to be caused by these gaps in plantings, followed by a bunching up of supplies as growers had to double plant in between storms to fill their fields.  There are literally no organic vegetable crops that will not have an inconsistent supply during the next month or two. 

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

Earl’s Organic Farm Visit:

Last week a group from Earl’s Organic visited a variety of Homegrown blueberry and stone fruit growers in the central San Joaquin Valley located between Kingsburg and Richgrove. The stone fruit season will start up at the end of May! See the photos below.

Durondeau Heirloom Pears

The Durondeau has a golden exterior with streaks of red blush and is covered all over in a soft russet. They are not ripe yet and we all had different opinions on the flavor, ranging from it punches you in the mouth, a bit tart with a crisp bite to having a floral flavor.  Earl thought it was similar to the Winter Nellis pear or honey pear known for its sweet flavor that goes great with cheese platters or in salads.  As the pear ripens the flavor will change. The Durondeau is not a long term storage pear but it is amazing for fresh eating and cooking.  The light granular texture is similar to the Bosc Pear which is often used in desserts.  The Durondeau might ripen similar to the Bosc which gives less than other pears when you apply gentle pressure at the neck.   As a reminder pears ripen from the inside out.

The Durondeau pear was originally cultivated in the garden of M. Durondeau, in the village of Tongre-Notre-Dame, Belgium in 1811. They are also sometimes called Tongre or De Tongre pears, after the city. It was grown in the United States as early as 1858, but seems to have since largely disappeared from cultivation in the western hemisphere.  We are excited to be able to offer the Durondeau pear in very limited quantities.

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes March 31, 2019

The Durondeau Pear has a golden exterior with streaks of red blush and is covered all over in a soft russet. They are not ripe yet and we all had different opinions on the flavor, ranging from it punches you in the mouth, a bit tart with a crisp bite to having a floral flavor.  Earl thought it was similar to the Winter Nellis pear or honey pear known for its sweet flavor that goes great with cheese platters or in salads.  As the pear ripens the flavor will change and we would love to hear what you think on our Facebook wall.  The Durondeau is not a long term storage pear but it is amazing for fresh eating and cooking.  The light granular texture is similar to the Bosc Pear which is often used in desserts.  The Durondeau might ripen similar to the Bosc which gives less than other pears when you apply gentle pressure at the neck.   As a reminder pears ripen from the inside out.

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