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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.

Covilli Fair Trade Banner with only logos

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.

Satsuma tree cropped

$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.

Fall Blueberry Update

We are very excited to announce that Forbidden Fruit Orchard Blueberries out of Lompoc, California are back with supply ramping up at the end of this week. Weather dependent, we can look forward to Forbidden blues through October and possibly into November.

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We can expect to see other California blueberry growers coming on with limited production in October, including Rancho Don Antonio in Carpinteria and Pacific Coast Produce in Santa Maria.

Blueberries coming out of the Pacific Northwest are essentially done and we will see a limited supply through the first week of October.

Stay tuned for more blueberry updates as we make the transition to imported blueberries in November.

Maywood Organic Fig Farm Tour

My family and I were fortunate to visit Bob Steinacher from Maywood Farm for a personal tour of his 172 acre organic fig farm in Corning, California, located just 2 miles off of Highway 101. I parked in front of the packing shed next to a vehicle with the license plate “Fig Farm” and knew I was in the right place. 20160825_114151-01

Bob was busy at work in the packing shed along with his wife and son when we walked in. You could feel the energy of the packing shed as the workers sorted the figs in the bins coming in off the field into ripe and extra ripe boxes. The extra ripe fig boxes are marked with an X for a select few customers.  Once the figs are stacked onto pallets they are brought into the coolers. The field heat must be taken out of the fruit to maintain the quality of the figs while they are being shipped to wholesalers all over the country.

Bob took us into the cooler where a large suction fan can cool down up to 8 pallets or 15,000 pounds of fruit from 90 to 36 degrees in 4.5 hours. Peak production is over and the coolers have only a few pallets. It is starting to cool down during the day and night and with shorter days it doesn’t heat up as much.

Bob asks if we are ready to tour the orchards and with a resounding YES we all climb into his ATV. Bob grows organic black mission, brown turkey, kadota, excel and adriatic figs with the majority of his acreage dedicated to black mission. Our first stop was a section of the black mission fig trees where Bob points out where the new growth was growing off the old branches. Some of his black mission trees are 32 years old and grow the biggest out of all the varieties. They cut them down to 6ft every year so they can pick them from the ground. The figs start ripening at the base of the limbs on the new growth and continually ripen up the branch. The trees can get so thick that you can’t get into the center of the tree to pick and the fruit doesn’t color up properly if it is too shaded. Most of the wood is pruned back by hand and Bob has 10 workers that prune all the fig trees for about 2 months each year.

Everywhere we look, black mission figs are scattered on the ground under the trees. Bob tells us “It so hard to see fruit go to waste. We work so hard to grow it but we can’t pick it fast enough.  It came on too hot and for too long with many 100 degree days. We got as many workers as we could at the time, but we peak out at around 100 workers and then the quality of the workers is not as good.”  Bob finds us a few dried figs on the ground and we munch on these heavenly treats as we climb back in the ATV and we are off to visit sections of Kadotas, Excels and Adriatic figs.

Bob Steinacher, Maywood Farms and Susan Simitz, Marketing Manager, Earl's Organic

Bob Steinacher, Maywood Farms and Susan Simitz, Marketing Manager, Earl’s Organic

The white varieties are easily susceptible to sunburn and we can see many figs that have started to turn brown from the heat. The adriatic is my personal favorite with his bright red flesh that is soft and sweet like raspberry jam. Lucky me- Bob tells me has a clamshell of adriatic and black mission figs to take on our road trip up to Oregon. I can’t wait. It is after 1pm and the workers are picking black mission figs so we head over to visit them. 20160825_125203-01

The workers start picking at 6:30am and finish at 5pm, working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. On the 7th day, Sunday, they work 8 hours. The temperatures are in the 90’s but the workers are covered head to toe, protecting themselves from the sun, the irritating hairs on the fig leaves and the milky latex sap that comes from both the branch and the fig as it is broken off. The latex causes burning so they wear gloves and tape their fingers to protect themselves. A tractor places yellow boxes throughout the orchard for workers to dump their buckets into. The boxes are then stacked and the tractors will come back through, picking up the full buckets and empty buckets to continue scattering them forward. One man is charged with coming through the orchard with water for the workers since they move so much they can’t have stationary water stations.  When it is time for lunch the workers take their break in the shade under the trees and their lunch is brought out to them on a truck.

Jose Torres Safety Officer

Jose Torres Safety Officer

I had the pleasure of meeting Jose Torres, Employee Safety Officer for Maywood.  Jose is in charge of taking care of all the workers in the orchard. If they hurt themselves or don’t feel good, they come to him. Jose was full of smiles and very proud of his job. You could tell he really cares about making sure all of the workers are taken care of.  A few of the workers posed for a photo and continued picking. Figs ripen on the tree and it is a special skill to know when a fig is ready to be picked.  Most of Bob’s workers continue to come back and work for him year after year.

Our final stop was a part of the orchard reserved for fig experimentation.  Bob was really excited about the flavor of the Trojano Fig. “This is a really really good white fig I am propagating to plant out. It is a Spanish variety and it is not tart sweet”.  He offered us a ripe fig off the vine and it was almost better than an adriatic. I hope Bob starts growing and selling the Trojano soon.  It was a fig to swoon over. Bob was an amazing host with lots of energy and excitement about his fig orchard. Hot and sweaty, my family and I said a big thank you and goodbye. We munched on those figs the rest of our trip and remembered how fantastic our tour was.

The good news is that even with the recent cooler weather, this year will be better than last year. 2015 ended extremely early with no fruit in September and October. This year there is still lots of green fruit on the tree and Bob expects slower production through September and into a good part of October. 

 

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