The California locally grown tomato season is operating on all cylinders with a steady supply of organic heirloom and cherry tomatoes.
“The marketplace is flush with organic heirlooms right now. They usually start trickling in in mid- to late July, and then they come into full stride right about now,” said Ethan Abendroth, a senior buyer for Earl’s Organic Produce in San Francisco. “Cherry tomatoes, especially the mixed medley, are also in good supply.”
Ethan Abendroth, Senior Buyer, Earl's Organic Produce
Promotable volume of these two popular organic varieties should be available through September. Abendroth listed a handful of California growers Earl’s is currently sourcing from throughout California, stretching from Santa Barbara in the south to Chico in northeast California. “Hopefully, we are going to start to see more velocity, and we will be able to move more product through the system,” he said.
Earl's supplier Tutti Frutti Farms' Chris Cadwell and Orin Cadwell
California will have good supplies of heirlooms and cherry tomatoes until the first frost comes this fall. “And then we will transition back to Mexico. Each year that transition is getting smoother and smoother,” Abendorth said, noting that there does appear to be an increase in the number of organic tomato producers in Mexico.
“The marketplace is flush with organic heirlooms right now. They usually start trickling in in mid- to late July, and then they come into full stride right about now.” - Ethan Abendroth
At the same time, Abendroth said there are not strong supplies of organic red round or beefsteak tomatoes, available in the summer from either Mexico or California. “Domestic growers of organic red rounds are pretty rare,” he said.
David Weinstein, director of procurement for Heath & Lejeune in Commerce, CA, said there is an oversupply of organic heirlooms, cherry tomatoes, and grape tomatoes and a shortage of organic vine ripe, beefsteak, and Roma tomatoes. During the summer, Heath & Lejeune does source some greenhouse-grown organic slicing tomatoes, but Weinstein believes domestic tomato growers are missing an opportunity.
David Weinstein, Director of Procurement, Heath & Lejeune
While uncertain whether the lack of those tomatoes in the marketplace is caused by consumers not buying them—or retailers not carrying them—Weinstein said he could sell a lot more locally grown organic slicing tomatoes if they were available. There is demand for the various colors of organic heirlooms and cherry tomatoes, he said, but the supply during the summer outstrips that demand, causing a less than stellar market.
Weinstein believes there is a very strong movement in the United States touting domestic products, but American farmers have not tapped into that to the extent that they could. Growing organic round tomatoes in the summer is potentially an avenue for more sales, he said, noting that conventional tomatoes of all varieties do well all year long.
While uncertain whether the lack of those tomatoes in the marketplace is caused by consumers not buying them—or retailers not carrying them—Weinstein said he could sell a lot more locally grown organic slicing tomatoes if they were available.
Veg-Fresh Farms in Corona, CA, which sells its offerings under the Good Life Organic label, had a bit of a different take on the current marketing situation for organic tomatoes. “The tomato market right now is short across all varieties [Romas, rounds, TOV, medleys, etc.], except for grape tomatoes,” said Monique McLaws of the company’s marketing team. “Grape tomato volume is strong with good quality and available supply.”
Monique McLaws, Veg-Fresh Farms
Overall supplies should be increasing over the next month, McLaws said, noting that organic vine ripe tomato volume should improve by the end of September through early October, but then tighten up again in December with the crop transition.
“Organic Roma tomatoes should also improve in late September, but we anticipate a tougher season due to weather,” she said. “Organic rounds will be available from mid-September to November.”
McLaws said rising prices do seem to be impacting organic sales. “We are seeing a slight decrease in the demand over the past few months for organics due to inflation across all commodities,” she said. “Consumers are price conscious to save where they can.”