Field Crops

Naturipe Farms Produces Berries for Global Consumers

Naturipe Farms is Leading Growers of Blueberries in the World

By Tim Hammerich, with the Ag Information Network of the West 

 

Naturipe Farms is a brand most Americans have seen in the supermarket. What many may not realize is that the company is actually owned by growers. California Ag Today’s Patrick Cavanaugh recently spoke to Jill Overdorf, who is Naturipe’s Director of Business Development for Food Service & their Corporate Chef.

“Producing fresh berries since 1917, Naturipe Farms is unique to the produce industry with a partnership between four highly esteemed berry growers: Naturipe Berry Growers, MBG Marketing(Michigan Blueberry Growers), Hortifrut, and Munger Companies,” said Orverdorf.

Overdorff said Naturipe is the leading grower of blueberries in the world, second in strawberries, and also produce raspberries, blackberries, avocados, and cranberries.

“Our strawberry growers had a very challenging year, but they developed some great crops,” noted Overdorff. “We also have a good breeding program. Our blueberry growers, the Mungers, are the largest growers of blueberries in California. They had a phenomenal year, and they are branching out and are enormously innovative. They’re leading our value added program with their proprietary wash process, which enables 21 days on a fresh blueberry shelf life for a snack product,” explained Overdorff.

“Our blackberries and raspberries, we have a number of proprietary varieties, including the Centennial Raspberry and the Madeline Blackberry, both flavorful and non traditional berries because of their load seed count and they’re delicious flavor,” she said.

2020-02-01T08:07:49-08:00January 31st, 2020|

Produce Passes All Residue Testing in 2017

FDA Produce Residue Sampling “Once Again” Verifies Safety

Last week the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its 2017 pesticide residue sampling data results. FDA concluded: “The latest set of results demonstrate once again that the majority of the foods we test are well below the federal limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Note the term “once again” in FDA’s statement. They used it because government residue sampling data year after year reaffirms the safety of our food and the exceptionally high level of compliance among farmers with laws and regulations covering the use of organic and conventional pesticides.

Let’s get a little technical for a moment and focus on how FDA residue sampling is protective of consumers. FDA employs a three-fold strategy to enforce the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tolerances or safety standards for pesticide residues.
If you haven’t heard – September is National Fruit and Vegetable month. Yes, it is time to celebrate the only food group health experts and nutritionists agree we should all eat more of every day for better health and a longer life.
While decades of studies have shown the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables are overwhelming and significant, the safety of both organic and conventional produce is also impressive. Government sampling data shows an over 99% compliance rate among farmers with the laws and regulations required for pesticide applications on organic and conventional fruit and vegetable crops. This led the United States Department of Agriculture to state that: “The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world.”

Many health organizations are promoting National Fruit and Vegetable month to remind consumers about the importance of increasing consumption – only one in 10 of us eat enough of these nutrient-packed foods each day.

However, studies show a growing barrier to consumption is fear-based messaging which inaccurately calls into question the safety of the more affordable and accessible fruits and veggies. This messaging is predominantly carried by the same activist groups year after year despite studies which show that “prescriptions” for fruits and veggies could reduce health care costs by $40 billion annually. Or that 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year.

2019-09-23T15:06:22-07:00September 23rd, 2019|

Even Organic Production of Strawberries Not Sustainable

Data Shows Even Organic Production Uses Resources

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

Is growing strawberries organically sustainable? That’s something that Surendra Dara is trying to find out. Dara is a UC Cooperative Extension Advisor in Entomology and Biologicals. He is based in San Luis Obispo County as well as Santa Barbara County. Dara met with California Ag Today recently and let us in on his research and some of his findings.

“I have not come across a mainstream grower that has told me that organic is sustainable,” Dara said.

After pulling in data and understanding the inputs, Dara is asking if there is anybody out there that has a different opinion.

“When we are talking about sustainability, we are looking only in terms of non-chemical being the sustainable, ecological practice,” he said.

There are such things as organic pesticides that harm natural enemies.

“Some of the organic ones can be as bad as some of the chemicals,” Dara said.

Data is showing that growing strawberries organically has not been sustainable economically. In terms of the carbon footprint and the bigger picture, “even organic production is not sustainable with the resources because certainly some resources are being used up,” Dara said.

2021-05-12T11:05:02-07:00July 10th, 2019|

2019 Strawberry Harvest is Brisk

Labor Tight, But Incentive Programs Keep Berries Harvested

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The 2019 strawberry harvest is going strong, and field employees are busy picking at the height the ripeness. Carolyn O’Donnell, a communication director for the California Strawberry Commission based in Watsonville, said lots of hands are harvesting the berries.

Carolyn O'Donnell

Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director, California Strawberry Commission

“We need to harvest the berries when ready,” O’Donnell said. “We can’t leave the ripe berries on the plant a few extra days, and we can’t harvest them early and then ripen them in some other modified atmosphere. They have to be picked when they’re ready to go. So, timing is part of it, as well as just having an adequate supply.”

O’Donnell explained how growers are handling the tight labor supply.

“It’s been a challenge. The growers have been doing all kinds of different incentive programs. Definitely, wages have been raised, different benefits have been offered, but we do find that growers are still struggling to keep up with their harvest,” O’Donnell said.

And when those harvesters out there picking the strawberries, they want to make the money, and they are in fact running back and forth with their trays to refill them.

“We are definitely in a busy harvest season right now. And so with a quick harvest comes incentive pay. And harvest workers will be hustling a little bit more. There are lots of berries to pick. There is money to be made,” O’Donnell said.

2019-07-08T16:37:07-07:00July 8th, 2019|

Bio-Control for Strawberry Growers

Strawberry Growers Lean on Biologicals to Manage Pest

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently met with Surendra Dara, a UC Cooperative Extension entomologist based in San Luis Obispo County. According to Dara, California strawberry growers follow many sustainable options.

“Growers are well-educated and have a support system that provides information to them very regularly,” Dara said.

Growers try to apply as much of the IPMs as possible, but there is always a lot more scope in terms of using non-chemical alternatives. That is an area that has room to grow.Strawberries

“The more we know about the options and their potential, they can be more adopted,” Dara said.

He explained that the strawberry growers often lean on biological insects such as beneficial mites that treat those damaging insects. It’s all part of IPM.

The insects are used outdoors along with in greenhouses.

“A bio-control is very well done in strawberries for mite control, but we do not have similar natural enemies for other pests,” Dara said.

There are botanical and microbial options for pest and disease management, and a lot of work is being done about understanding how they work and placing them in the right strategy.

“So, there is definitely plenty of options for us,” Dara said.

2021-05-12T11:01:47-07:00June 28th, 2019|

Electric Tractors Will Soon Be Available

With So Many Electric Cars, Why Not Electric Tractors?

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

There are many different models of electric cars—they are even mainstream in most  U.S. cities and other countries—and now farmers may soon have electric tractors to use in specialty crops in California.

Bakur Kvezereli is president and CEO of Ztractor, the first autonomous electric tractor for specialty crops. Kvezereli, who is based in Palo Alto, explained why the tractor is being developed in California.

“First, California is our market. Second, we teamed up with some great engineers, who graduated from Stanford, and my school, which was MIT. We were friends, and we wanted to look into this technology looking to replace the 25 or 30 HP diesel motor as well as the 30-gallon diesel,” he said.

“And we started as an electric tractor company in September 2017. And in two months, we realized that to achieve an electric tractor, you have to find a solution for making it autonomous,” Kvezereli explained.

“We now have three models in our manufacturing pipeline. One 24 horsepower will be available to the farmers this year. The next model will be a bigger tractor, 45 horsepower, which will be available 2020, and a 125 horsepower will be available in 2021.”

“Our basic tractor will have all the usual features found in most other tractors. The premium model line will have more features, especially on the software and hardware area. The zTractors will have no emissions and no hydraulics—just strong torque power.”

A four-hour charge will provide 6 to 10 hours of work in the field. “It requires only level two charging similar to car charging.  “We are exploring a better battery, however currently it is the nickel ion technology,” Kvezereli said

“Horsepower is where we estimate the metrics for a tractor. What we think farmers care about is torque. In electric, to achieve higher torque is much easier than to achieve it with diesel power, and electric technology in general is very reliable for many types of tasks,” said Kvezereli.

The electric tractors keep the same three-point hitch as well as a PTO, both electrically operated.

“We build everything based on the requirements for the PTO and three-point hitch, and I think that’s what makes the Ztractor different from any other robotics companies that will provide a better tractor. It’s a general purpose and can replace a regular traditional tractor,” he said.

The main farming operations will be strawberry  vineyards and vegetable operations. The tasks will include soil preparation and crop management. Harvest tasks are not yet available.

The prices for the tractors, calculated at $1,000 per horsepower, are similar to traditional tractors.

2019-06-05T15:01:14-07:00June 5th, 2019|

Consumer Protection Is Top Priority for LGMA

New LGMA Irrigation Requirements Mean Heightened Food Safety Measures

By Mikenzi Meyers, Associate Editor

As consumer protection continues to be a number one priority for producers, main pathogen routes are of the utmost importance for guaranteeing safety. The California Leafy Green Marketing Agency (LGMA) is a program that works to continually keep the lettuce industry safe and maintain confidence in food safety programs—but as pathogens begin to evolve, it takes a team effort to combat future threats.

Mike Villaneva, LGMA technical director, told California Ag Today, “It’s been a tough 18 months, and it’s the challenge with these outbreaks … we never really have a good answer about what happened and how it happened.”

In the leafy greens industry, water becomes a focal point in pathogen prevention. “We’ve got 12 years of testing water, and we’re pretty confident of water in the deep wells along the Central Coast, but down south is a different ballgame—that’s open surface water,” Villaneva said.

On April 19th, the LGMA board met and voted to strengthen mandatory food safety practices required on farms. One facet included prohibiting overhead irrigation 21 days prior to harvest unless the water is sanitized.

“They’re looking at some other potential testing and data that could lower that down to 14, but right now they’re sticking with the 21 overhead,” Villaneva said.

The California Leafy Green Marketing Agency continues to show their commitment to ensuring a safe, stable food supply through foodborne illness prevention. More information about the program can be found on their website at www.lgma.ca.gov.

2021-05-12T11:01:48-07:00May 23rd, 2019|

Wasco High School Students Attend Bakersfield College

High School Students Gain Interest in Agriculture

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Sophia Marin is a lab assistant at UC Cooperative Extension Kern County, and she also is an adjunct professor at Bakersfield College in a dual enrollment program with Wasco High School. She is helping high school students attend Bakersfield college at the same time.

“The students are in the 11th grade, so by the time that they’re done with high school, they’ll have their high school diploma plus an Associate Degree from Bakersfield College,” Marin said. “They’re essentially doing two schools in one,  and at the college, they attend lectures and they have a lab.

California Ag Today met Marin and her students at a California Fresh Carrot Advisory Board meeting in Kern County.

“We have been discussing different pathogens that affect plant growth. The carrot meeting was a great opportunity to actually hear the researchers, instead of reading a textbook and me going over it,” Marin said. “They got to see it real life, and I thought it would be a more memorable and something that they could grasp.”

Wasco High School Students Who Also Attend Bakersfield College

Marin explained that since the students come from the rural area of Wasco, most have an interest in agriculture.

“And by the end of this next year, they will all receive an agricultural business degree from Bakersfield College,” she said.

“It will depend on them what the students do the degree. So whatever I can instill or spark in them to whatever career path they want to go to. It may be agronomy, pathology or research, it’s all on them,” Marin said. “It’s nice to open their eyes to see more.”

She noted that most of the kids have plans to go to a university. “I am very impressed with them. Some of the terminology that I mention, I might say I wonder if they know about this or that,” she said. “But they do know. When I’m speaking to them, they understand, and if they don’t, they will research an idea themselves. I am very impressed.”

“These students work very hard. They have weekend classes and summer classes. I am very proud of these students,” Marin said.

2019-05-01T17:21:26-07:00May 1st, 2019|

Leafy Green Marketing Agreement Issues New Food Safety Guideline

New, More Stringent Food Safety Practices Adopted to Prevent Outbreaks

By April Ward, LGMA Communications Director

The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement Board met April 19 and voted to strengthen mandatory food safety practices required on farms.

This means that every box of leafy greens placed into commerce by a certified LGMA member will soon be produced under new, more stringent requirements that are designed to reduce risk when it comes to water used in growing leafy greens. The updates include specific directives such as no longer allowing the use of untreated surface water for overhead irrigation of leafy greens prior to harvest.

The LGMA program has always required growers to test their water because it can be a carrier of pathogens. But the new requirements now include additional safeguards that ensure farmers categorize the source of the water; consider how and when water is applied to the crop; conduct testing to assure the water is safe for the intended use; sanitize water if necessary; and verify that all of the above precautions have been taken

The new standards approved by the LGMA Board are in direct response to investigations conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration into last year’s e. Coli outbreak involving romaine lettuce. Clues pointed to irrigation water from sources such as canals and reservoirs as a possible cause of the both the November outbreak and the one associated with romaine from Yuma last spring.

Government and the produce industry, in general, looked to the LGMA as the way to improve the safety of leafy greens. The leafy greens industry group, facilitated by Western Growers, has been working with industry members, growers and members of the academic community to fashion new and more stringent requirements for agricultural water use. And, in fact, the actions taken by the LGMA Board have effectively changed the way 99 percent of the leafy greens in California are farmed.

The LGMA will begin immediately to make sure everyone in the leafy greens community understands how to comply with the new requirements. The updated LGMA Food Safety Practices document is available on our website here. Additional information on specific changes to the LGMA food safety practices will be provided in the coming weeks and dates for workshops and webinars for both leafy greens industry members and the buying trade will be scheduled soon.

The LGMA and its members have an obligation to produce safe leafy greens. We are very aware of the tragic impacts a foodborne illness can have on consumers, our customers, and our entire industry. We are all passionately committed to producing the safest leafy greens possible. The LGMA will continue to make changes to as needed to strengthen the food safety requirements for leafy greens.

For more on the new regulations, check out this YouTube video.

2021-05-12T11:01:48-07:00April 25th, 2019|

Protecting Melons From Silver Leaf Whitefly

Avoid Planting Near Earlier Planted Crops

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Silver leaf whitefly can be a severe yield-robbing pest in melons, but there are ways to prevent the damage, according to Tom Turini, a UCANR Vegetable Crops Adviser in Fresno County.

“A tactic is going to depend upon planting. If you’re able to put the crop into an area where you’re not next to earlier planted melons or cotton or known sources of whitefly, your likelihood of experiencing damaging whitefly levels is going to be lower,” Turini said. “Growers can’t always do that, but that’s part of the approach when you can. You’ll limit your risk.”

Tom Turini, UCANR Farm Advisor, Fresno County

Turini said the pest could mainly be a problem when you’re putting in those late melon fields when whitefly populations are higher.

“Whiteflies are not good fliers, so when you put those fields in areas where you don’t have sources of whitefly nearby then you will have less pressure for sure,” Turini said.

“Then there are some insecticide programs that you can look at, particularly when you know you’re going to have pressure,” Turini explained. “If you’re coming into high temperatures, and you’ve got late-planted melons, you may want to start with soil-applied insecticides, through the drip. It could be Admire; also Sivanto is a newer material that that has registration and has shown efficacy in desert production areas, which have much higher pressures and more consistent pressures than we do in the San Joaquin Valley.”

2021-05-12T11:01:49-07:00April 23rd, 2019|
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