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Earl’s Produce Buyer’s Notes Week of February 6, 2017

Buyers' Notes Feb 6 Page 1 Buyer's Notes February 6 Page 2

California Winter Citrus Update

The recent California rains were brought on by an atmospheric river weather pattern consisting of large amounts of humidity. They are usually over a 1,000 miles long and over a 100 miles wide, and can carry a greater flux of water than the Amazon, the largest river on earth.

The rain has halted most of the citrus harvesting in the three main growing regions except for in small sporadic amounts.  There may be some small pockets that are dry enough to pick and pack but for the most part we don’t expect volume to be back to normal until the end of next week. Any fruit being picked is a tedious process because of the difficulty of bringing a ladder into a muddy orchard.

Growers will try and pick as much fruit as they can before the rains start. Once it rains the fruit needs a few days to dry before they can begin picking again. If they are picked and packed before they are dry they will have a higher incidence of developing the post-harvest disease called clear rot. Clear rot is not immediately evident but will show up as softening of the tissue with possible mold. Although this rain will be very beneficial in the long term it is disrupting supply in the short term. The citrus varieties affected include navels, all mandarins, blood oranges, lemons, cara cara’s, minneola’s and grapefruits. Stay tuned for updates.

Citrus Districts

California Winter Produce Supply Affected

Heavy rain in California over the last week has completely shut down all local growing regions tightening the supply of many fruits and vegetables.  There were some rains down in the desert but not as intense. The rain not only makes it difficult for workers and tractors to get out on the muddy ground to harvest but it can delay the planting of the next crop. We could see a shortage of some items down the road when they would have been ready to harvest.

As we mentioned in our last blog we are currently sourcing most of our winter season veg out of the Coachella Valley, down into the Imperial Valley and Yuma, Arizona. This is the time of year where it can be quite cold in the desert and winter veg can be susceptible to frost, limiting supply. The weather has been surprisingly warm but we are still seeing very limited supply on some items such as lettuces and kales. Though it is difficult to determine all factors of supply challenges, these are ones that are most obvious. One of the biggest reasons is that the whole country is pulling from California and there is just not enough product to go around. We can also look to shorter daylight hours during winter, limiting the number of harvest hours and a two day ride from the desert up to the Bay Area. Expect prices to increase on some items as supply stays low and demand is high.

Rancho Don Antonio Berry Update:

Tony Chavez, owner of Rancho Don Antonio, sent us pictures yesterday of his farm in Nipomo, an hour north of Santa Barbara, flooded by the recent rains. There will be limited supply of raspberries and blueberries over the next month. The blackberry hoop houses have been pulled out so the land can soak up the rain, making supply very limited over the next few months. Stay tuned for updates.

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Hass Avocado January Update

Avocados will be in the spotlight as we ramp up for Super Bowl as well as the transition out of Mexican fruit and into Californian fruit. The California crop is expected to start up in early February with volume about half of what it was in 2016. Fruit and nut trees are alternate bearing,  with one year producing a greater than average crop, and a lower than average crop the next year. More on this and other reasons for the lower volume in our next blog.

Avocado supply update: Earlier this week there were blockades all over Mexico protesting a gasoline tax and the devaluation of the peso. The protests shut down roads affecting the supply chain to the United States. It is possible that this will result in a tightened supply and price increase.

Photo courtesy of Equal Exchange

Photo courtesy of Equal Exchange

Earl’s Organic Looks Back at 2016

2016 was a year of changes and growth at Earl’s Organic Produce. Our staff has grown 15% over the year to 91 people and we created 2 brand new positions- Director of Sales and Marketing and a dedicated Food Safety Manager as we continue to focus on serving our customers and staying ahead of the evolving food safety regulations.  We have partnered with more growers and fostered new relationships with young farmers—the future of our food system! Each year brings new customers and we value each and every one of you. Thank you for your support in 2016 and we look forward to a prosperous and healthy 2017.  Here are a few highlights from the past year.

Emphasis and Growth:

  • Earl’s is carrying more fair trade offerings than ever– Equal Exchange avocados, Covilli Mixed Veg and year round Coliman Bananas- now Rainforest Alliance Certified.
  • We have expanded our biodynamic apple, pear and berry offerings.
  • Our partnership with Hodo Soy continues to grow and we offer a full line of retail and food service organic tofu products.
  • We have expanded our equipment fleet in 2016 with the latest in equipment technology by Raymond Material Handling Concepts. New additions include forklifts and walk behind pallet jacks.
capay-group-picture

Capay Satsuma- Orland, CA

 

Earl’s in the field: 

  • More farm tours and grower visits– Employees visit Rancho Don Antonio Nipomo, CA, Johnston Family Organics in Woodland, Las Hermanas in Hollister, Ellwood Canyon Farms in Goleta, Coastal View Produce in Gonzales, Central West Produce in Santa Maria, Sanchez Brothers in Carpinteria and Covilli in Guyamas, Mexico!
  • An Organic Conversation – Earl’s employees spoke on 8 separate editions of this nationally broadcasted radio show! Download the podcasts.

 

Building Relationships with Grower Partners: 
Ellwood Canyon : Mixed veg- Goleta, CA
Spade and Plow: Artichokes and nantes carrots- San Martin, CA
Johnston Family Farm: Winter squash- Woodland, CA
Rancho Don Antonio: California blueberries, berries- Nipomo,CA
Peri & Sons: Onions Yerington, NV and El Centro, CA
Progressive Produce: Russet Potatoes- Edison, CA

New Items in 2016:
I love Pom: Pomegranate Arils- Reedley, CA
Maristone: HerbsWatsonville, CA
Natural Trading Company: Sprouts and Wheatgrass- Newcastle,CA
Mt. Hood: Biodynamic apples and pears-Mt. Hood, Oregon
Greenbelle: Biodynamic blueberries-Chile
Twin Girls: Jujubes- Reedley, CA
Rainbow Valley Orchards: Variegated pink lemons- Rainbow, CA
Super Fresh: Autumn Glory Apples- Yakima, WA(with hints of cinnamon and subtle notes of caramel)

Earl’s in the News:

Earl LIVE on Good Day Sacramento

Earl LIVE on Good Day Sacramento

Earl’s Employee Happenings  

Sampling Maywood Farm Figs at the Academy of Sciences

Sampling Maywood Farm Figs at the Academy of Sciences

  • Earl’s crew sampled seasonal produce at the Academy of Sciences Nightlife 21+ events.
  • Earl’s celebrates our second year partnering with America Scores, a local organization with a mission to promote good health. Volunteers from Earl’s engaged with community members in our backyard and spread our love of wholesome organic food by handing out organic fruit to kids and their families at local soccer games.
  • Earl’s Employees showed off their talents at the annual guacamole and pumpkin carving contests.
  • Earl’s gives away awesome organic turkeys(and vegan options) with the fixings to all employees for Thanksgiving.
  • Earl’s brings the largest group yet of employees down to the 36th annual EcoFarm conference, the largest annual organic agricultural gathering on the west coast. We hope to see a bunch of you at EcoFarm in 2017.

 

Happy New Year from all of us at Earl’s Organic Produce!!

happy-new-year-from-earls

 

 

Wet Winter Weather Update

We are experience incremental weather in the California and Arizona regions where we currently source most of our cool season veg. It is raining in Coachella Valley, down into the Imperial Valley and Yuma, Arizona is expecting rain. The rain means no harvest and supply out of these areas will be limited.

The weather situation is compounded with the long holiday weekend upon us and little to no crews picking in the fields the Monday after Christmas.  Prices can be expected to increase but we anticipate prices strengthening across the board on cool season veg as the market adjusts to this weather event as well as possible shorts. This is the time when relationships really matter as strong strategic partners generally are more protected than others.

imperial-valley

Winter Crop Transition

It is that time of year when many California growers transition their wet veg operation, think lettuces, leafy greens, broccoli and cauliflower, from the cooler areas of the Central Coast and Salinas Valley down to the warmer regions in the California desert, Imperial Valley and Yuma, Arizona. The desert regions include Coachella, Thermal and Mecca north of the Salton Sea and south of Palm Springs. The Imperial Valley extends from the southern area of Coachella, past the Salton Sea and all the way down to the border of Mexico. Warm veg is now mostly coming out of Baja California and northern Mexico, think zucchini, green beans, hot peppers, colored bells, cucumbers and tomatoes.

imperial-valley

As we approach the winter solstice on December 21st it is getting colder and days are becoming shorter.  Less hours of sun slows down the growth of everything which means there are less hours in the day to harvest which can lead to light volumes. Combined with the fact that during winter the entire United States is pulling vegetables from the same area which also limits the quantities available and can lead to higher prices.

 Covilli Organics Warm Veg Mexican Crop Update:

We have good supply of Covilli green beans, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatillos, zucchini and a variety of hot peppers – Jalapeno, Serrano, Anaheim, Cherry Bomb, Padron and Poblano. Heirloom tomatoes are arriving in limited quantities but we expect volume to increase next week.  Brussel Sprouts are developing beautifully on the stalk and we are on track for our first shipment around the end of December or early January.

Stay tuned for produce updates throughout the winter months.

winter-transition-pic

Covilli Brussel Sprouts and Heirloom Tomatoes

Earl’s Organic is Hiring Product Selectors

Earl’s Organic Produce, Inc., a leading distributor of organic produce throughout Northern California, seeks a skilled and safe Product Selector for our San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market headquarters.
Under the direction of the Outbound Operations Manager, the Product Selector fills customers’ orders from stored merchandise in accordance with specifications on sales slips or order forms. Duties include completing order receipts, keeping records of out-going orders, requisitioning additional materials, supplies, cleaning work area and equipment.

Responsibilities will include:
 Read orders to ascertain quantities of merchandise
 Obtain merchandise from bins, shelves, and coolers
 Check order receipts
 Examine products to verify quality standards
 Count finished products to determine if product orders are complete
 Keep records of out-going orders
 Place merchandise on conveyors leading to wrapping areas
 Wrap the palletized merchandise
 Mark or tag identification on palletized merchandise
 Operate machinery used in the process, or assist machine operators
 Observe equipment operations so that malfunctions can be detected, and notify Management as necessary

Position requirements include:
 Ability to operate tools used in this occupation such as forklifts and hand trucks
 Ability to read and understand information presented in writing
 Ability to arrange things in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules
 Ability to lift a minimum of 50 lbs. on a regular basis
 Requires being reliable, responsible, dependable, and fulfilling obligations
 Requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks
 Requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-nature
 Requires supporting other team members and provide service to others
 Requires knowledge of conducting inspections of products

Earl’s Organic Produce provides a highly competitive compensation package, including medical, dental, vision, LTD and voluntary life, plus a company-sponsored retirement program.
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 to HR@earlsorganic.com or come directly to:

Earls Organic Produce
2101 Jerrold Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94124

Earl’s Organic Is Hiring 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 to HR@earlsorganic.com or come directly to:

Earls Organic Produce
2101 Jerrold Ave., Suite 100
San Francisco, CA 94124

Earl’s Visits Capay Satsuma

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With the 5 of us in Earl’s car, we embarked on the 156 mile journey north to Orland, CA. After getting off of I-5 and turning onto “Country Road 9” Earl commented, “That’s when you know you’re in farm country. When you get on Country Road 9!” The grid of long straight rural roads eventually led us to 7346 Cutting Avenue and the home of Capay Satsuma.

We pulled up and parked outside of the packing shed, and shortly thereafter Dawit walked up to welcome us. Dawit Zeleke and his wife, Cori Ong, have owned the 12 acre orchard for 17 years. The folks they bought it from did not farm it organically, but after 1 year on the land, they decided to go through the 3 year transition to becoming certified organic with CCOF.

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The oldest trees on the property are 54 year old, the youngest just are just a few years. In total there are about 1,000 trees on the property. Around the base of many trees, especially the younger ones, is black material to prevent weeds from growing and competing with the trees for nutrients. On some of the older trees, Dawit showed us that the fruit on the exterior was relatively soft, whereas the fruit on the inside of the tree was mature, firm, strong quality. Knowing what fruit will work for each facet of their customer base is important. Earl’s is their only wholesaler. They also sell to a handful of local stores, and the Davis and Marin County farmers markets. Cori runs a small mail order business in which small gift boxes are packed with care, filled with raffia, hand written notes, and beautiful fruit. These gift boxes are sent all over the country.

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About 10-20%% of the fruit is of the color, and firmness that they would pack it for us at Earls. In a good year (as this year has been) 90% of their fruit is sellable. In years with more rain and unfavorable weather conditions, that can swing closer to 50%.

Although inland, they do experience foggy damp mornings often in the orchard. In order to dry the fruit off so they can start picking workers use leaf blowers to dry the first few trees when necessary. By mid-day things have typically dried off enough that this does not need to be done. Fruit is packed into quaint wood crates and then brought into the packing shed. Each piece of fruit goes down a “buffer” to brush off and buff the fruit. It then runs down a sorter which sizes the fruit and gets it to the packers who do the pack it into 25# boxes, or 5# bags.

As we wrapped up at the orchard and packing shed and headed out to lunch at the local Mexican restaurant, we quickly learned that Dawit knew most people in the small town. He was greeted by neighbors and local beekeepers with big smiles and respectful handshakes. He had a good joke for each acquaintance with whom we crossed paths. His sense of humor had us chuckling throughout the day as well.

Dawit and his wife are appreciative of their relationship with Earls, and we certainly all left with a great appreciation for them as people and growers. Great people with great fruit, that we can buy, receive, sell and ship with pride. Thanks to each person here at Earls for doing their part to support this relationship!

capay-group-picture

Carson Evers, Earl Herrick, Dawit the grower, Christe Biddle and Nick Arabian

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