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Sanchez Brothers Year Round Hothouse Cucumbers

Neither John nor Paul Sanchez has formal farming experience but they grew up with a love of farming from working in the family garden with their grandfather, mom and dad. John went on to major in ornamental horticulture at Cal Poly under the agricultural program with a strong interest in soil science. Ultimately John chose a career as a landscape contractor and Paul as a general contractor.

It is by accident that the Sanchez Brothers came back to their love of farming. Eight years ago they were looking to buy a piece of land to park their business trucks on. They came across a few acres perfect for their trucks, complete with a hothouse and a barn they could rent.  Soon after they bought the property the rental deal fell through and John and Paul were left with an empty hothouse. They remembered how much they loved gardening with their family and eating fresh produce they had helped grow. The Sanchez brothers decided to give farming a go!

Sanchez Brothers John and Paul

John and Paul Sanchez

John and Paul started off growing heirloom tomatoes for about three years and then moved into green beans and cucumbers. Customers told them “Now this is what a cucumber tastes and smells like!”  They wanted a niche market and decided to focus on growing the best quality slicer cucumbers year round. “We work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, but we love it,” said John with a laugh.  When they are not farming they still continue to work as contractors with home offices on the farm.

The hothouse is located on 1 ½ acres in Carpinteria just south of Santa Barbara. “We have the best and the worst of each type of weather,” said John. They are located in a little cove nearer to the mountains than the ocean. This helps them because they don’t get as much fog and it is nice and sunny. The sun passes through the plastic on the rooftop providing light to the plants and helping to heat the inside of the hothouse. The downside is when it gets really windy, it blows up against the hothouses and the strong winds have been known to knock off the roof. Fortunately Paul is a general contractor and can have his crew out there fixing the hothouse when needed.

Sanchez cucumbers will be arriving at Earl’s this week and we can expect to see a year round supply. “We enjoy it here in Carpinteria. We love growing all organic because we want to see healthy bodies,” said John. When they are not working hard the Sanchez Brothers can be found enjoying a refreshing cucumber mojito.

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Sanchez Brothers hothouse cucumbers in Carpinteria

 

 

 

Earl’s Organic Highlights

WHAT’S HOT!

The California navel season is winding down and we are in the last month or so. Late season Washington Navels from Tomorrow’s Organic out of Edison, near Bakersfield, CA will have outstanding flavor for the next 2 weeks.  The Washington variety was the first navel imported into the United States from Brazil in 1870. Don’t miss out this extra sweet and juicy fruit!

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Fuji apples are still coming out of Washington. Newly released from Controlled Atmosphere rooms(CA) these delicious Fujis were just packed on Monday. Only the best quality apples are chosen to be stored in CA rooms so you can expect good color and flavor.  Domestic supply is winding down and prices will reflect that. We can expect import apples to start up in May.

 

COMING SOON!

Fair Trade peaches from Divine Flavor in Mexico will be arriving at the end of next week. This will be the best tasting peach south of the border!  We expect the season to go through April, just in time for our local stone fruit deal with Burkart Organics to start up.

Sweet Fair Trade mini seedless watermelon from Divine Flavor in Mexico will also be arriving next week following by full sized watermelon, honeydew and cantaloupe. The season will go through April.

California grapes are only a month away!  Grapes come in three colors-red, green and black. The season starts out of the Coachella Valley, near Palm Springs and the Salton Sea, with early varieties such as the red flame, fireball and green sugarone. California grapes are available for most of the calendar year and can be found through January. There will still be some Mexican grapes on the scene as California starts up. We will be evaluating the flavor and deciding if we want to be part of that deal.

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Coliman Organic Fair Trade Banana April Celebration

Join us in celebrating Coliman Organic Fair Trade bananas with specials throughout the month of April. Earl’s Organic Produce has the only organic banana ripening facility on the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, giving us complete control over our bananas from the grower to the shelves of your local retail store. Our warehouse has 3 banana ripening rooms that allow us to provide consistent ripening and quality to specific customer needs.

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Earl’s Organic is a banana house. Pallets of Organic Fair Trade Coliman bananas arriving on Earl’s dock.

Through our exclusive relationship with Mexican banana grower, Coliman Organic we bring you the freshest, highest quality bananas direct from the farm. Coliman Organic is a family run, environmentally conscious company, with over 50 years of experience growing bananas in the Colima area of Western Mexico.  We look forward to sharing the story of Coliman’s Fair Trade Certification and how the Fair Trade premium has changed the lives of the farm workers and their families.

Banana update:

The banana plants are still recovering from hurricane Patricia which wiped out a large portion of Coliman’s crop in Colima, Mexico last October.  Additionally new plantings made at that time that are now in the first stage of their production. Both of those circumstances mean that a larger amount of smaller hands are being produced while the fruit continues to mature.

We expect to see the situation improve next week with a greater percentage of larger hands in each box.  We’ve gotten through the worst percentage of small fruit and things are looking good from here on out.

We thank you for your continued support of our banana program. Even though in the winter months Mexico produces smaller fruit in their off season, we like to support our grower year round. Importing fruit from South America can be problematic with inconsistencies in quality and supply line.

What the Fair Trade Premium Means to Covilli’s Farm Workers

Covilli Brand Organics might be the first and only grower-shipper that sells ALL their products as 100% ORGANIC and FAIR TRADE, and we are also among the companies with the highest Fair Trade Premium return in their first year of being Fair Trade Certified. This makes us extremely happy, but mostly grateful for all the wonderful companies and consumers that are supporting these efforts.

Fair Trade USA had to establish a brand new premium for 13 of our vegetables, which means that these products were most likely NOT found as Fair Trade in the marketplace. Getting these new premiums delayed our sales ‘take off’ a bit, and we began selling everything as Fair Trade until January 15th. It brings tremendous satisfaction to every one of us at Covilli to report that for the months of January (half of it), February and March the Fair Trade Premium for the farmworkers adds up to $183,000 dollars!  Covilli Fair Trade Banner with only logos

It is indispensable that prior to project suggestion and voting, we apply a survey to our employees to determine which are their most significant needs. Working closely with Fair Trade USA, we are going further and are actually interviewing each one of our workers with a quite extensive questionnaire of over 30 inquiries that cover major topics such as: housing, nutrition, health and education among others, both in their places of origin as well as the town where the farm is located.

Fair Trade USA has established this poll as a requirement, since they know it’s a crucial step to help farmworkers identify and prioritize their necessities – without this information they might, for example, consider a Dental Clinic with several dentists 24/7, but the root problem might just be a high and consistent sugar intake (sodas) and poor dental hygiene habits.

Covilli is investing the necessary time and resources to collect as much information as possible for our workforce to make informed decisions that will hopefully set the foundation for not one, but several projects. The workers are the ones who know what’s best for their own community and therefore they are the ones who decide how and when the Premium will be invested.

We want to thank our conscious consumers who participated in the Covilli March Fair Trade Celebration. Buying products labeled as Fair Trade 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 Covilli’s farm worker communities. Although Covilli will be wrapping up their season around the beginning of June we will continue to follow the Fair Trade Committee on their journey.

In the middle of March a group from Earl’s visited Covilli and had the opportunity to interview the Fair Trade Committee as a group.  The boundaries of language seemed to disappear, like watching a captivating movie with subtitles, it had turned into a conversation amongst friends. It was interesting to hear and speak of the meaning of Fair Trade on both sides of the table, to share in our support of this program. I left knowing that I would soon return to see that projects that this program has helped to manifest, and the benefits that will come along with them.”  The videos from these interviews are currently being translated and we can look forward to hearing the thoughts of Covilli’s newly formed Fair Trade Committee in a few weeks.

Farm Interviews

Interviewing the newly formed Covilli Fair Trade Committee

Forbidden Fruit Blueberry Update

For the last nine years, except for 2012 and 2013, we have enjoyed Forbidden blueberries in March. This is one of those years that the fruit is slow to ripen and size up. “There was a big delay from Thanksgiving to January 1st where the temperatures were so cold that nothing happened for 6 to 7 weeks,” said Sandy Newman, owner of Forbidden Fruit Orchards.  “We saw continuous temperatures of 50 degrees during the day and down to 36 at night. The plants just sat there and now we are 6 weeks behind. The rain didn’t help the situation but the clouds hanging on for 3 to 4 days in a row was the real problem.”

The farm is located on 8.5 acres about 15 miles from the ocean in Pinot Noir country in northern Santa Barbara County.  The cold pacific air comes right to the property but the 50 foot tall pine trees planted around the fields are natural wind breaks, helping to keep the heat in the fields.  Blueberries are weather dependent and they need the sun and heat for ripening.  Yesterday was full of sunshine with a high of 69 but Sandy is hoping for an 80 degree heat wave. “We have a great set out there, just waiting to size up and get color, “said Sandy.  She estimates that her blueberries will be ready for harvesting in mid-April.  Let’s hope for lots of sunshine over the next couple of weeks!

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George Phillips of Grateful Greens Will Be Remembered

On behalf of The Phillips Family

It is with the greatest sorrow that the family of George Ernest Phillips wishes to announce his untimely death on Sunday, February 21, 2016. George, 72, died suddenly while he was doing what he enjoyed doing most, hiking near his home in the Santa Cruz Mountains. George passed away while looking out at his most loved view of the Santa Cruz Mountains, up above the fog line of the redwoods, upon the peaks off Summit Road, among the Oaks and Manzanita trees, looking towards the Monterey Bay.

Earl’s Organic started our partnership with Grateful Greens in 2012.  George was a pleasure to work with and always brought his deliveries of wheatgrass and sprouts with a smile. He relished in his work and always believed that nutrition and a healthier lifestyle are connected. He will be greatly missed by the Earl’s team.

George is survived by his two children, daughter Brittney (Brady) and son Jordan (Susan), and eight grandchildren: Austin, Landon, Kyana, Gavin, Alanakai, Halle, Avery and Mayzie. George is also survived by his brother, Ken Phillips.

To know George was to love George. A business leader, an honest friend, a man of infinite ingenuity, possibility and presence, George was the guy who could be talking to a room full of people and remember everyone’s name on a single pass. The founder and president of Grateful Greens, a company who supplies greens to residential customers, Jamba Juice and many grocery and commercial outlets, George was known for rejoicing in working long hours and finding great satisfaction in a good day’s work. He will be remembered as a man who always gave more than he got, of gentle temperament, and with an eye for quality and detail throughout all facets of his life.

A California native, George graduated from Utah’s Brigham Young University with a degree in Business Administration, moving on to Wall Street, before returning to Santa Barbara in the 60’s. For the next fifty years George’s career was a ladder of success, marked by numerous awards for exemplary salesmanship in the creation and growth of a number of companies, from sales awards at Xerox, culminating in being the National Sales Director of Silicon Valley’s Covalent Systems, he moved through many leadership roles in technology companies in Silicon Valley, before the founding of his own company, Grateful Greens, in the mid 2000’s.

George attacked leisure like he attacked his work. An avid skier, hiker and nature enthusiast, George was at home, whether packing in Mineral King’s peaks and valleys, or Hawaii’s Big Island, or in the coastal mountains near his home. George was always focused on when he could get “back to the Sierra”… the place that shaped him.

His outward presence was one of confidence and stability. His inward nature was about driving to the silence of nature, the possibility of the future, the grounding of what was in front of him in the moment.

When he wasn’t out enjoying nature, George could be found working on his property, which he loved, while listening to albums like “Dark Side of the Moon.”

To talk to his family about George is to learn of a generous man, who above all else, could see the possibility, or even more to the truth, the opportunity, behind every situation. Described regularly as a man who could see both the forest and the trees, George was of a rare character, able to dismiss distraction while tirelessly pursuing a singular vision.

A gathering for family and friends to remember George will be held on Saturday April 2nd in the afternoon. The location and directions to the site will be posted on www.gratefulgreens.com and www.scmemorial.com at later date; please check those sites for the updated information. In lieu of flowers the family asks that you make donations in George’s memory to www.heifer.org.

We’d like to provide assurance that during this time of sadness all Grateful Greens’ business operations are continuing as usual.

Thank you,

Ivana Myron
Program Manager | Grateful Greens
Mobile 408.483.6767 | Toll Free 844.353.0911 Hours of operation: 8:00am – 5:00pm“Delivering Organic Wheatgrass & Sprouts straight to your door”Connect with us GratefulGreens.comFacebook | Yelp

Grateful greens

Hass Avocado Pre-Conditioning Process

The oldest evidence of avocado use was found in a cave located in Coxcatlán, Mexico dating around 10,000 BCE. Making it quite possible that Montezuma scooped up his ahuacamolli (guacamole) with a fresh corn tortilla, the same way millions on super bowl Sunday have done over 500 years later.

The name has changed over time, but the main ingredient has remained the same, RIPE AVOCADOS…

Avocados are very unique in that they begin the ripening process once they are off the tree. The avocado fruit can rest quietly on the branch for 6-8 months or longer after blossom before being ready for harvest. It is this delicate and patient process that we keep in mind while preconditioning our avocados at Earl’s Organic Produce.

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We receive our avocados green and firm from some of the best growers in California and Mexico, depending on the time of year. The ideal temperature of these green avocados upon arrival is between 40-50 degrees F. The ideal temperature for ripening these same avocados is between 60-65 degrees F.  This conditioning process extends far beyond simply raising the temperature of the fruit by 20 degrees.

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Hass avocados from green(left) to ripe(far right).

At Earl’s we do not use forced air ripening rooms for avocados, nor do we use ethylene. We allow the fruit to ripen as it would naturally off of the tree, simply by controlling and monitoring the temperature at which the fruit rests. We have found that this intensive and time consuming process is best for conditioning avocados, resulting in the perfect vibrant deep green avocado that is ready to eat.

  • To begin our conditioning program, we isolate the selected fruit and place it at ambient temperature, usually between 50-60 degrees depending on the season.
  • The appearance and temperature of this fruit is monitored and logged at least twice daily, to ensure a perfect conditioning process.
  • This fruit typically will start releasing ethylene within 24-48 hours at the ambient temperature. At this stage the fruit will also begin producing its own heat, which requires close attention to ensure the fruit does not exceed 70 degrees F, causing irregular ripening as well as possible decay.
    • Ethylene is a natural plant hormone released in the form of a gas.
  • Once the fruit begins producing ethylene, we may place a large plastic covering over the pallet, this will trap the gas produced and help accelerate the conditioning process, however this is not always necessary.
  • There may be times in the season in which the fruit begins to ripen at a faster pace than we may like, and this requires different action to slow and cool the fruit. We would first air stack the pallet, allowing cool air to move and circulate more freely around the boxes, and if necessary we may use large fans to “blow” the warmer air out of the fruit.
  • Because every piece and box of this fruit will often condition at its own pace throughout the season, we may have multiple pallets receiving its own different and custom treatment at any given time. This is when the process becomes immensely consumptive, but in the end it is worth it to provide that perfectly conditioned avocado!Providing the customer with “ready to eat” fruit results in increased overall sales and improved customer satisfaction and in the end ripe avocados outsell green avocados 2 to 1. Avo knife

Earl’s Organic Produce has been conditioning avocados for nearly 2 years now, offering all counts and sizes as “pre conditioned” on our daily Earl’s Organic pricelist. We have seen great success with this program and have received nothing but positive feedback from our customers involved in this program.

We are passionate at Earl’s about providing hand conditioned avocados to you and your customers, as this delicious fruit deserves no less. Let Earl’s do the work for you by providing beautifully conditioned avocados.

Covilli – Organic and Environmental Stewards

We are promoting sustainable methods that translate into a more just food system. How? by offering good food to nourish our bodies, by minimizing the impact farming leaves behind in our lands and water, and by giving value to the men and women that work every aspect: from soil preparation to harvesting with expert and efficient hands, to get us the vegetables that we love and need.

This is what being organic and Fair Trade Certified means to everyone at Covilli.

We only sell what we grow- there are no outside growers or outsourcing- which allows us full control from seedling to distribution. Our operation is approx. 25% greenhouses, in ground not hydroponic, and 75% open field.

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As part of our commitment towards organic purity, we enforce an intensive Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) which includes:

  • Insect Monitoring Stations: they give us a sense of population and types of insects in the area as part of our preventative program that among many things it covers.
  • Crop Rotation: This is a robust program that changes every year.
  • Beneficial Insects: Released inside the greenhouses
  • Cover Crop rotation with a small percentage of intercrop.
  • We are currently working on incorporating local mycorrhiza
  • We build our own Shade and Greenhouses based on Israeli engineering.
  • We work with a local honey producer brings hives into our farm for pollination, and later sells the honey produced locally.

Our farm’s General Manager actively participates in the Local Board of Vegetable Health and in the Vegetable and Fruit Grower Association in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico; focused on pest and disease mitigation as well as procuring state and federal funding.

As Mexican farmers we must comply with more and stricter regulations because our products cross the international border into the United States, where U.S. Customs, FDA and USDA have agricultural, food safety and pest concerns.

At Covilli, we have a strong environmental commitment: we recycle all plastic such as greenhouse covers and drip irrigation lines as well as mulching and solarisation. We also incorporate clean cardboard in our compost, which is produced using all of our farm trimmings and is fully organic. All the water utilized on our farm comes from a well within the property and our entire operation uses drip irrigation for water conservation purposes.

 Our Food Safety emphasis

Food Safety is critical to our operation. We are certified in Global Food Safety (GFS), Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) making it one of the most comprehensive and complex certifications. We have taken our commitment further than most, by having the Organic and GFS (Global Food Safety) Certifications for our warehouse at Covilli’s H.Q. in Nogales, AZ., as well, which makes us organic all the way through.

About 85% of the produce that is consumed in the US is hand-picked in other countries.  Buying products labeled as Fair Trade 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 Covilli’s farm worker communities.

Each of us at Covilli Brand Organics has as a set objective, contributing towards a great product that is good and meaningful, that protects our earth, our workers and their families, your children and our children; in this we take great pride. We are Growing Quality by Tradition. Truly Organic, Truly Fair.

Covilli Fair Trade Banner with only logos

Rhubarb and Spring Go Hand in Hand

Beautiful red stalks of rhubarb have arrived at Earl’s signaling the beginning of spring. Often thought of as a fruit, rhubarb is actually a vegetable that can traced back to 2700 BC in China where it was used for medicinal purposes. Rhubarb is a perennial herb grown from a crown, similar to asparagus, and will continue to produce up to 15 years. 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 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.

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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 will make your mouth pucker up if you eat it out of hand. Just add honey or sugar to transform it into a delicious dessert or savory dish. We like pairing rhubarb with strawberries in a pie or making a compote to top yogurt or vanilla ice cream. My favorite recipe is a refreshing rhubarb shake topped with chopped pistachios.

Please share your recipes on our Facebook page and Rhubarb Pinterest Board.

Rhubarb Shake

Rhubarb shake with chopped pistachios

Spring Transition

During the winter months many growers move their operations from the Salinas and San Joaquin Valleys down to Yuma, Arizona and the California desert, think Coachella Valley just south of Palm Springs down through the Imperial Valley to El Centro at the border of Mexico. As the weather warms up in March the growers will transition back up north. We will see some overlap during the transition as growers finish up in Yuma and the desert and simultaneously start production in the Salinas and San Joaquin Valleys.

During the transition we can expect to see times when supply is low or gapping as growers move to the new area.  Inclement weather, hotter days, and the end of the season in the desert can result in produce showing more defects and issues than usual. Temperatures in the desert are now reaching into the mid to upper 80 degrees and historically are in the 100s by June.  We can expect a more stable supply and volume of wet veg, especially leafy greens, as the transition back to the cooler areas of the Salinas and San Joaquin Valleys is completed.

Grower Update:

Braga, Cal-Organic and Lakeside are done shipping out of the desert and are in the middle of transferring their operations back to the Central Coast.

Heger will continue for another 6 weeks or so out of the desert as they move into warm veg items.  They do not have a second location so we will see a gap on this particular grower until they start up again in the fall.

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