- THE MAGAZINE
Homegrown Organic Farms, Porterville, Calif., took the next critical step in their growth as the premier shipper of organic citrus, blueberries and tree fruit by purchasing a new facility in Kingsburg, Calif., that will consolidate all shipping and packing operations for fruit originating in the San Joaquin Valley. The Homegrown Arvin facility near Bakersfield, Calif., will continue to operate as a commercial cold storage, while the citrus packing facility in Riverside, Calif., will focus on citrus from Districts 2 & 3 and continue to operate as an overflow facility for District 1 citrus.
The Kingsburg facility occupies 28 acres of land, including 50,000 square feet of cold storage space and 37,500 square feet of pack line area. The 50,000 square feet of refrigerated space is separated across three structures that total five independent rooms. Its location will enhance logistical efficiencies and improve customer service through ease of access for transportation.
Due to the size and flexibility of the cold storage space, Homegrown will offer consolidation services to help customers manage their organic programs. The cold storage will be outfitted with ozonation and have the capability for controlled atmosphere storage for management of specific timeframes and commodities.
The new pack line installation is currently underway and will be operational for the start of tree fruit season. It will feature the latest in post-harvest organic controls, including ozonation drench technology. All stone fruit will be handled in totes to ensure quality by reducing unnecessary pressure on the fruit during harvest. In addition, sensitive citrus varietals such as the Gold Nuggets will be handled using totes instead of bins during harvest. A specific stem and leaf line has also been included to accommodate the future growth of the company’s mandarin program.
“There are three specific reasons [as to why this purchase was made]—people, efficiency and growth,” says Scott Mabs, chief executive officer. “A big part of this decision was made to help solidify and improve the livelihood of the people that we employ in our packing operations. Seasonal work is difficult to manage for us and our team members. This facility will allow us to provide year-round work for our packing team members, which will improve their lives and the people that depend on them. Secondly, significant efficiencies in energy and resource management will be realized by consolidating packing, cooling, quality control and shipping under one roof. And last but not least is the reality of our coming growth. Our development in blueberries, citrus and tree fruit over the next five years demands a change. We know this will have a marked impact on our business and our customers. We are excited about what the future holds for Homegrown and our valued team members.”
Jeremy Basich will lead the facility as general manager. He maintains a longstanding background in retail and wholesale, having been farm-raised inside the Costco fresh foods system. After 10 years with Costco, he was recruited to Wal-Mart and then Safeway as a produce and meat buyer.