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Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes April 4, 2021

Happy Easter Sunday! New this week: Mexican Honeydew is sweet with good melon flavor. Galangal and Red Galangal Root is grown in Kauai. Mixed Exotic Clam 12/6oz Far West Fung may contain a selection of fresh Shiitake, Tree Oyster, King Turmpet, Lions Mane, Maitake, Yellow Oyster, Pink Oyster, Nameko and Pioppini mushrooms. Available in 12/6oz packs.  We carry a full line of Far West Fungi dried mushrooms. Download the dried mushroom guide below. Earl’s visited Sunrise Farms last week. Watch the youtube and find out more from Carson, Earl’s Buyer. Don’t miss any of the weekly organic fruit and veg updates. Download and print the notes here.  

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes March 28, 2021

Coastal View Produce California asparagus is in excellent supply for Easter! California Avocados are projected to have a smaller crop this year. “Avocado trees have a tendency to adopt an alternate bearing cycle- an on crop/off-crop cycle. A large on-crop inhibits fruit set and flowering, leading to a smaller crop next year. “- California Avocado Commission  This year there were also high winds and a lack of rain which pushed the harvest back. We will see our first land of California Avocados from Eco-Farm on Monday. Wilgenburg Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes are grown in greenhouses in Dinuba, California.“Earl’s Organic Produce has been buying from Wilgenburg since 1997,” says Robert Lichtenberg, Earl’s director of purchasing. “Our customers look forward to their season starting every year—quality is great and the freshness cannot be beat. We especially enjoy both the European and Persian cucumber that they grow.” Download the full story and more in this weeks organic fruit and veg update.

Arroyo Grande Berry Farm

Maria Iniquez never imagined she would change her career from cosmetologist to farmer. Her brother Jose was always the farmer of the family with a dream of transitioning his strawberry farm to organic. Maria fell into farming when Jose unexpectedly passed away in 2015. She wanted to bring her brothers dream to fruition and to honor his memory and be close to him.

In 2016 Maria took over Arroyo Grande Farm with no experience farming and no one to teach her.  She started with 25 acres and a few years ago the owners sold some of the land, leaving her with 10 acres. The farm is located in Arroyo Grande, about 20 minutes south of San Luis Obispo. Situated on a mesa overlooking the ocean, the sand dunes are visible in the distance. The ocean provides a lot of the cool early morning breezes and the daytime temperature remains a constant 65-70 degrees year round. Never too hot or too cold, this unique microclimate “helps contribute to the flavor and growth of the plants,” said Maria. A quick drive 20 minutes away and the weather becomes much cooler or warmer.

“The first year taking on the farm there was a lot of trial and error growing strawberries. I put in hoop houses when I took over the land to help protect the strawberries from birds as well as prevent the berries from becoming too cold in the evening,” said Maria. 

Maria started with strawberries and now grows raspberries, snap peas, green beans, zucchini and fava beans are the newest addition to the farm this year. She rotates the crops throughout the year so there is always something growing. Strawberries are rotated with green beans and raspberries are rotated with zucchini.  Having a diverse crop rotation improves soil health, increases nutrients for the crops and helps to reduces erosion.

The best way to keep away the pests is to “keep the plants clean of weeds. We have hoops and a tractor doesn’t fit between the plants. We use pickers that pull the weeds by hand between the plants and on the road. It is very expensive to do by hand, “said Maria.

Arroyo Grande strawberries and raspberries are available on the shoulders of the season. Maria learned early on it is hard to compete on price with larger berry growers during the summer months. Arroyo Grande strawberries can be enjoyed as early as December through April/May and raspberries come on in late April/early May and then again in August.

When asked what she wanted her customers to know, Maria said that she “calls Arroyo Grande “my brother’s ranch”.  My brother was a people person and he would be so happy. The strawberries were his dream. He would invite me to stay and watch the beautiful sunsets and sunrises from the ranch.”

Arroyo Grande is now harvesting sweet strawberries and we can look forward to fava beans in a few weeks and snap peas in late April/early May.

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes March 21, 2021

California citrus varieties evolve throughout the season and you can be sure that there is always something sweet and juicy to enjoy!  Hyde and Rainbow Valley Orchard Grapefruit flavor, juice and color is excellent. Fruitworld Blood Oranges are plentiful. Don’t miss easy to peel Murcott, Tango and Gold Nugget Mandarins, sweet and tart Minneola’s, pink flesh Cara Cara’s, and Navels.. Download Earl’s Organic Winter Citrus Guide and growing region map. Tutti Frutti Mr. Big English Pea variety is here! Plump, sweet peas are calling for spring dishes. Download this week’s organic update here. 

Warm Weather in the Desert Growing Regions Attracts Aphids

High temperatures and humidity for an extended period of time create the perfect conditions for aphids and mildew quality issues.  This week temperatures in the California desert regions moved into the high 70’s and 80’s and all desert vendors are seeing increasing mildew and aphid pressure on warm veg items including broccoli, cabbage, kale and lettuce.

Aphids love the heat and humidity and it is almost impossible to control organically. We see this happen with organic produce every year when it gets too hot in March in the California desert and again during the warm summer months in the Salinas Valley.

Organic growers do their best to combat aphids. We asked a few of our growers what they do to control aphids. Lakeside Organics uses a lot of beneficial predatory bugs like lady bugs who love to eat Aphids.  Josie’s Organics plant beneficial flowers to attract good bugs to mitigate pressure from unwanted bugs (in this case, aphids) and implements a healthy crop rotation. Many growers, especially strawberry growers’ use a bug vacuum designed to suck up the aphids right out of their fields


Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes March 14, 2021

New this week- Blood Orange Sanguinelli are more sweet than tart. Dried Mangos are now available in a 1 pound pack. Golden Sunrise Papayas are winding down.  Watch ripening, storage and eating tips on Earl’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/earlsorganic/

Sun Valley Farms in the Pajaro Valley, an Earl’s Exclusive, is harvesting a bounty of red, green and rainbow chards and red and green kale. Did you get a chance to try Sun Valley’s newest addition to the greens family?  Gai Lan or Chinese Broccoli, has a taste similar to broccoli but slightly more bitter. Gai Lan is a Brassica oleracea plant species that includes cultivars such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts and collard greens. Beautiful flat, glossy green leaves with thick stems and florets, Gai Lan can be substituted for broccoli in stir fry recipes. Quick Tips!  Blanch in hot water before stir frying to help remove some of the bitter taste and keep the crunchy texture. Stir fry the stems first and then add in the leaves. Call in your order early on this delicious bitter green. Once it runs out Sun Valley will be gapping on Gai Lan for a few weeks until the next field is ready to be harvested. Download this weeks organic fruit and vegetable update and pos materials to highlight your retail display.

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 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).

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 80’s 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 will transition back up to the Central Coast on Romaine and Red and Green Leaf Lettuce, Cilantro and Green Cabbage the week of March 15th.  By the end of March they will have finished transferring their operations.

Cal-Organic will start transitioning the week of March 15th and be out of the desert by the week of March 22nd.

Lakeside will continue to harvest in both growing regions for a few weeks at the end of the month.

Access-Organic  Treat label will wrap up at the end of March out of the desert. They do not have a local program.

Covilli Partners with Sonora Valencia Growers

Covilli Organic Valencia Oranges are grown in San Jose De Guaymas, a coastal region in Sonora known for its microclimate and juicy, high-brix, robustly flavored fruit.  The citrus orchards were the first to be planted in the area about 50 years ago. Over the years the land became semi-abandoned. 

Covilli saw an opportunity to partner with the Association of Citrus Growers of Sonora, made up of 12 growers, to make a substantial positive impact on growers, communities and organic standards throughout Mexico, while offering consumers safe, socially and environmentally responsible organic citrus choices.  Covilli spent years working closely with 3  motivated growers in the Association of Citrus Growers of Sonora to help make the transition to Certified Organic. The goal is to for the growers to become Fair Trade as soon as possible, but it is a process.  “We are trying to change agricultural systems, putting our money where our mouth is. Placing faith and trust in the consumer, while continuing to educate them on how we are all interlinked in this holistic food system.” Alex and Iris Madrigal

Earl’s Organic Buyer’s Notes March 7, 2021

Steady Washington Red D’Anjou, Anjou and Golden Bosc fruit. Bartlett Pears from Argentina, also known as the Williams Bartlett, are the delicious piece of fruit we all recognize and love with its sweet flavor and smooth texture.  Pears are picked green but not ripe. They ripen from the inside out and have a fragrant aroma, but how do you know when your pear is ripe?  One way is to check the color. The Bartlett pear skin brightens as it ripens and the deep green skin will soften to a golden hue.  Touch is another way.  Apply gentle pressure to the neck or stem area of the pear and it will give slightly when it is ready to eat. The best way of all is to spend time getting to know your pear. Experiment with cutting them up at different times. You will get to know the exact color and feel of your pear when it is perfectly ripe. Timing is everything! Remember, all pears need to ripen at room temperature. Bartlett Pears from the Southern Hemisphere run from March-July.  California historically starts up with Bartlett Pears the end of July or beginning of August out of the Sacramento and Stockton River Delta region. Download the latest fruit and vegetable organic updates each week!

Coastal View Produce California Organic Asparagus

California Organic Asparagus from Coastal View Produce in the Salinas Valley is a sure sign Spring is here!  As the first golden rays light up the morning sky -on any given morning- you will find Ron Mondo out in the fields, meeting with supervisors and field operations managers. His is not a 9-5 job. Ron Mondo is a second generation farmer who grew up in Santa Cruz, California. Ron’s grandparents migrated from the Piedmont region of Italy known for its agricultural and wine production.  Growing up in Santa Cruz, Ron was surrounded by sunny beaches and the bountiful agricultural land of the Watsonville valley.  Ron learned all about being an environmental steward and protecting the land for the next generations from his father, the late John Mondo.

“One of my earliest and fondest memories, is riding in the truck with my father. We would go out and inspect the fruits of his labor. As I grew older, during the summer months, I worked in those exact same fields, learning all the basics of farming and techniques handed down from generation to generation”, states Ron Mondo.

In 2000, Ron partnered up with the Ippolito family and established Ippolito International on the west coast. In 2018, Ron took over the reins of Coastal View Produce from a longtime family friend, the Violini family, and ventured into the asparagus market.  For over 35 years Coastal View Produce has been growing high-quality, organic asparagus in between the Santa Lucia and Gabilan mountain ranges in the heart of the Salinas Valley.  The Mediterranean climate and fertile soil make it an ideal growing region for asparagus. The weather is never too hot or too cold, staying around 65-75 degrees.  Ron and his team are busy insuring the asparagus crop is tended to daily. Ron’s team is busy inspecting, harvesting, packing and shipping asparagus from sunup to sundown.  With over 170 acres of organic asparagus Coastal View Farms is committed to growing the asparagus category.

Coastal View Produce relies on a practical, yet holistic approach to keeping their farm sustainable.  This involves respecting the farmland’s surrounding ecosystems and unique biodiversities; managing inputs, including water, energy, and packaging materials conservatively while seeking to maximize the production outputs as efficiently as possible. This includes analyzing soils regularly and amending and fertilizing as needed; and using an integrated pest management system to limit what is applied to crops. 

Weather dependent, the season starts up in February and runs through July 4th.

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