From stone fruits to cherries to figs, the start of the California organic fruit crop deals this spring are trending a couple of weeks later than the last few years. Crops will start in May, but there won’t be promotable volume for organic fruit until June on most items.
“I don’t think we are late this year,” said Stephen Paul, a summer fruit expert for Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, CA. “I think we are closer to normal. We’ve just been abnormal for so many years in a row, that it seems late,” he said.
Paul said a warm six weeks kicked off California’s new year, but that was followed by frost in late February, rains in March and April, and a cold spell that was still being felt as the calendar turned to May. However, warm weather is forecast entering early summer and Paul predicted May would see increased volumes of stone fruits with some promotions possible by mid-June, building to heavy supplies come July.
The silver lining in this year’s spring weather pattern, Paul said, is that it has led to an exceptionally long bloom period that will result in a greater-than-usual separation between many of the stone fruit varieties. This should result in more orderly marketing with many different opportunities for promotion.
Organic Cherries also took a major hit from the variable weather and the California crop is well below normal. Wendy Day, of Morada Produce Co. in Linden, CA, said “we had a record crop last year so we knew we were going to be down, but we are well below normal.”
Day said the said the current cold weather (in the low 60s) was making it very difficult for the fruit to ripen as it pushed toward the finish line. “We’ve picked a few bins but not much,” Day said. “Maybe by May 10 or mid-May we’ll get going with some volume.” “We only have one organic grower this year and she might have lost her entire crop. We’re not going to have much.”
There have been reports that some organic growers in California had to utilize a spray this year during the pollination period to assure that they would get at least some fruit; however that action does render the fruit ineligible for organic certification.
Jeff Ferrari of Ferrari Farms in Linden, CA, is expected to start picking some organic cherries by mid-May but he agreed the cherry crop is very light and there will not be a lot of organic cherries on the market throughout the California season. Ferrari did say however, that after a slow start, his firm should have good volume of organic stone fruits.