There are new and interesting things going on at Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA.
“We are now bringing in organic limes from Mexico, and shipping them out of our Arvin, CA, facility," said Scott Mabs, director of marketing. "We have been working with this grower in Mexico for the past year and have developed a good relationship.
“We are also we’re bringing in Chilean blueberries,” he continued. “Our domestic program has grown so large that the imports will help to keep our volumes at needed levels.”
Both Homegrown Organic’s new products are marketed under its “Bella Terra” brand, and occasionally under a grower’s label. The “Homegrown Organic Farms” label is reserved for domestically grown product.
The company will also be shipping its first crop of organic Gold Nugget mandarins.
“This is a wonderful piece of fruit,” said Mr. Mabs. “It is seedless, sweet and easy to peel — which is what consumers want today. The fruit comes off in March and the program will run until May. It is our first crop of the Gold Nuggets, and so volumes are small. But the trees will be increasing in production quickly as we move forward.”
This will be the first season that Homegrown Organic Farms will be offering a year-round lemon program, which started in October. The company is growing lemons in all three districts of California: District 3 in the desert, District 2 near San Diego and District 1 in the San Joaquin Valley.
The company is just now putting the finishing touches on a line expansion project at its packingshed in Riverside, CA. It was installed to handle the year-round lemon movement.
“We also installed a new sizer in the packinghouse, and we added on to the facility in Riverside,” said Mr. Mabs. “That expansion project will be up and running in February. This is an exciting addition to our company as it was done to efficiently handle the lemon program and to allow for its growth.”
Sales of its organic products has been very stable in the past year, and Mr. Mabs said that the company is encouraging more organic production. He feels that the incremental growth in the organic supply base is helping to keep the market steady.
Last August, Craig Morris joined the staff at Homegrown Organic Farms as its citrus category manager. Mr. Morris began his agriculture career by working on his family’s citrus ranches and raising livestock for 4-H and Future Farmers of America. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business from Fresno State University and previously worked for Gillespie Ag Services, The Kroger Co., LoBue Bros. Inc. and most recently as director of new business development at Pro Citrus Network.
“Seth Tillery, who held that position before him, is now in field operations for our company,” said Mr. Mabs. “We also hired Gunnar Avinelis as business intelligence and sustainability coordinator. He joined us in November.”
Mr. Avinelis has multiple roles in his new position with Homegrown. One is to look at data management in the farming and packing operations and bring them together with the result of better communications. He will also bring more information to the fingertips of people in a way that is useful. And he is assessing the sustainability processes throughout the company’s growing, packing and shipping operations. From his observations Homegrown Organic Farms will build a framework for a strong sustainability program that will help it move into the future.
“Our roots are organic, and we have a really good story to tell,” said Mr. Mabs. “We are now documenting that story in ways that we can make good use of it as we push forward.”