Bard Valley Date Growers, operating out of Yuma, AZ, provides Medjool dates under the Natural Delights brand and expects to handle more than 30 million pounds this year, all grown on 4,000 acres on the California and Arizona sides of the Colorado River.
The company was formed in 1987 when various Medjool growers in the Bard Valley got together with the idea of establishing consistent and unique growing practices to set themselves apart from others in California.
David Baxter, Brand Manager, Bard Valley Date Growers
“The goal was to establish industry-leading quality and safety practices and to pool resources to make a greater impact in the community,” said David Baxter, brand manager for Bard Valley Date Growers. “Something our growers are most proud of is their ability to offer so many year-long and seasonal jobs to the local communities.”
Today, the Natural Delights brand is the leading Medjool date brand in the country. Its date palms are harvested using proprietary equipment including large platforms raised by boom lifts. The dates are then sent to their grower-owned facilities, where strict standards are implemented so only dates with the highest-quality size, flavor, and texture are selected to ship to customers worldwide.
Bard Valley harvesting boom lift
“Something our growers are most proud of is their ability to offer so many year-long and seasonal jobs to the local communities.” -David Baxter
Each year, the company grows approximately 25 percent organic fruit, and it is constantly adding new organic acreage.
“The organic side of our business is growing significantly as consumers are becoming more and more engaged in how and where their food is grown,” Baxter said. “Organic growing practices are part of who we are and how dates are grown. Even on our conventional fruit, we do not use pesticides or any additives. For us, it’s just continuing to do the proper tracking and paperwork on more and more farms to get them certified organic versus changing much of how we are growing and harvesting dates.”
Natural Delights organic Medjool dates
The main challenge the company faces is getting the farms certified fast enough to keep up with demand as organic dates become more popular year after year.
“Our biggest opportunity is to get our message to consumers about dates and all that they can offer, whether organic or conventional,” Baxter said. “Dates can be such a great addition to any healthy lifestyle and provide so much in terms of nutrition but also taste. The more we can talk to people and educate them, it will pay dividends for years to come in terms of growth.”
“The organic side of our business is growing significantly as consumers are becoming more and more engaged in how and where their food is grown.” -David Baxter
Being a grower-owned co-op, Bard Valley Date Growers does a great deal for its local communities that are involved in growing and harvesting its fruit.
“We provide hundreds of year-round job opportunities and thousands more for seasonal activities like harvest,” Baxter said. “It’s more and more rare to have that community connection from the grower down to the people in the trees harvesting. Our growers are out there every day leading crews and working with people during harvest, and I think that is something pretty special about our company.”
In the year ahead, Baxter noted Bard Valley Date Growers has some fun and unique innovations planned to get more and more people to try dates and date products, and it is also planning other growth initiatives to drive out-of-home eating experiences.
“From a consumption standpoint, our largest goal is to get more people to eat dates and teach them how dates can add value to their lifestyle,” Baxter said.
“Our growers are out there every day leading crews and working with people during harvest, and I think that is something pretty special about our company.” -David Baxter
With a philosophy that revolves around helping the world discover and enjoy the world’s finest Medjool dates, the company has been successful in its mission.
“Bard Valley Date Growers is a special company, and as the only grower-owned Medjool date co-op, we truly pride ourselves on setting the industry standard for excellence in everything we do, from growing and harvesting to leading the category in our retail and community outreach to continue to drive the category upward,” Baxter said.