Continuing to answer the increasing demand for organic produce, Homegrown Organics Farms has added a new kiwi program and expanded its blueberry coverage to year-round with two new fall deals.
Scott Mabs, chief executive officer of the Porterville, CA-based company, said that the new blueberry program involves San Jose Farms, a Chilean blueberry operation with multiple farms in different districts producing organic blueberries from October through late March. “The program is completely Fair Trade Certified,” he said.
Scott Mabs, chief executive officer, Homegrown Organic Farms
Mabs said the blueberries will be packed and shipped to the United States in nine-pound harvest lugs. They will be delivered to Homegrown’s Kingsburg, CA packing facility and packed in retail-ready six-ounce and one-pint clamshells. Mabs said that gives the company production control much closer to the end user and will allow only the best quality in the pack. The blueberries will be packed under the Homegrown Organics Farms label.
The addition of the Chilean program should give Homegrown supplies 365 days of the year. The company’s California deal typically begins production in late March and then supplies transition to the Northwest during the summer. Mabs said it is weather dependent, but the domestic blueberries can last through September creating the year-round coverage. The company is anticipating that it will have promotable volume coming from Chile during this upcoming season as San Jose Farms is an established operation “and we should hit the ground running.”
The new kiwi fruit program represents a new commodity for Homegrown utilizing a new variety, discovered in Greece, that produces larger, more cylindrical fruit. Mabs said the green-fruited variety has been in the making for a decade and yields fruit about twice the size of the common Hayward variety.
Kiwi is a storage crop so the fruit will be harvested in California in late October and marketed into March. As these are new trees, Mabs said the production will build over the next several years. “We are very excited to bring this new variety to market,” he said.
It will be packed in one, two and three-pound clamshells under the Homegrown Organic Farms label.
Mabs said both new programs allow Homegrown to bring something unique to the market. For the Chilean blueberries, he said the Fair-Trade Certified designation is the differentiator while with the kiwi program, it is the size and shape of the fruit that sets it apart from the competition.
The Homegrown executive did comment on the current situation about the novel coronavirus and the organic sector. “We have seen increased demand for our products, but it is difficult to put your finger on exactly why,” he said. “There is a ‘health halo’ around organics which has played a role.”
He also noted that because the consumer is doing more of their eating of meals at home, their food dollar is stretching further and that could also factor into the increased demand for higher-priced organic produce.
“We have seen increased demand for our products, but it is difficult to put your finger on exactly why. There is a ‘health halo’ around organics which has played a role.” -Scott Mabs
Like every other company, Homegrown has had to institute new coronavirus prevention methods, which are costly. In fact, he said the cost of doing business in California continues to substantially increase beyond normal inflation “and the cost of COVID has added to that.”
He said it requires very careful management practices to keep those costs from becoming overwhelming. Mabs said contract sales can take those costs into account while open market pricing does not tend to factor in specific costs. However, he did note that open market sales are becoming less of a factor in the organic produce sector.