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Homegrown sees continued growth in organic sector

Because the category has sustained significant growth on an annual basis for many years and has now reached a much larger number in gross sales, organic produce sales are seeing a decrease in percentage growth but they are still outpacing other groceries sectors.

At least that is the view of Scott Mabs, chief executive officer of Homegrown Organic Farms, in Porterville, CA. He said it is a numbers game as single digit growth of a much-larger starting point is still impressive and proves there is still a lot of potential yet to be realized. “There are some areas of the country that are still on the front end of that growth curve,” he said.

blueberry-on-shelf Mabs said it is not a myth that people on the coasts have tended to adopt organics and other facets of healthy eating faster than those in the middle of the country. But he said that the trend toward taking more care about what one eats is gaining traction across the country. “What does healthy eating mean in Oklahoma,” he asked, indicating that as the trend accelerates in the Midwest, organic produce should be a beneficiary.

For a company focused entirely on organic produce, Mabs said the Organic Produce Summit is a perfect fit. “We did another organics show a few years ago called ‘All Things Organics,’ which was pretty good. But as that moved forward it became more about organic groceries rather than produce. We love that this show is only about organic produce.”

Homegrown is both an exhibitor and sponsor of OPS and looks forward to both seeing existing customers and finding new ones. This year the firm does not anticipate introducing anything brand new, but it will be pitching its summer crops. In mid-July, the company’s organic grape harvest will have just gotten underway as Homegrown’s acreage is in the San Joaquin Valley, which is slated to begin picking around July 1. The firm will also be touting its organic blueberries, which it will be sourcing from the Pacific Northwest and its organic California stone fruit. Homegrown is also a player in the organic citrus category but summer is the low point for that volume as the 2017-18 navel season will be just about finished.

In general, Mabs said organic supplies are growing and keeping up with demand “but you have to gauge that on an item by item basis.” For its grapes and tree fruit, he said San Joaquin Valley still has available land that can be transitioned from conventional production as organic demand continues to grow. He did say, however, that for both organic and conventional production the cost of land in California is an issue as high prices can make farming less viable. While offshore production is providing increased supplies that’s a bit more difficult on the organic side of the ledger. Because the crop protection tools, such as fungicides, are limited or non-existent for organic crops, shelf life is typically a bit shorter, which makes it more difficult for an off-shore organic product to hold up after extended transportation times are factored in.