RazzleDazzle Grapes will be Transitioned to Central California by mid-July

This year’s Mexican grape season was slightly different from past seasons, according to Mike Asdoorian of DLJ Produce. “A lot of growers have pulled out their early season varieties and planted later season premium varieties, which has changed up the structure of the season,” he says. For the RazzleDazzle grapes, there are about 2-3 weeks left in the Mexican season, and after this they will switch over to their Central California production.

The RazzleDazzle crop started out of Mexico in the beginning of June and will likely stretch to the beginning of July. Asdoorian shares: “The main focus is the quality of the grapes. We waited with packing the product at the start of the Mexican season so assure the highest quality. We also don’t want to overextend the season too much because we don’t want to affect the quality.”

Mexico has seen some high temperatures lately which has worried growers in the area. “There have been some heat related issues in Mexico that we want to keep our eyes on. The fruit’s quality is still good, the heat is just slowing everything down a bit. The transition to California is coming up, though, so that should alleviate the worries about the temperatures in Mexico. We’re expecting to have good volumes out of California by the second week of July,” Asdoorian shares. Some logistical challenges, but good demand despite pandemic
The spike in COVID-19 cases in Arizona has caused some additional challenges for companies in the area. Asdoorian explains: “There are some really strict regulations, such as not letting truck drivers into facilities to reduce possible exposure. It’s been difficult getting the product across the border because of the strains on the infrastructure. Trucks rates are slightly elevated, and there are limited numbers of USDA inspectors available. Those who are available are also subject to the extra precautions and restrictions. So, getting product into the US has been a challenge, but I’d say we’ve adjusted well to it.”

The majority of the product goes directly into retail, and the demand for the RazzleDazzle grapes has been good, Asdoorian says. “The combination of the exclusivity of the program with the benefit of the fact that people aren’t eating out as much has driven demand. The grape category as a whole might not be up by any significant amount, but in general people are buying more produce. We, specifically, are seeing a double-digit growth for our grapes, so we’re looking forward to moving along the season, have a good transition and do the best we can,” he concludes.


Blue Diamond Completes Turlock Expansion

Less than 15 months after breaking ground on the project, Blue Diamond Growers recently announced the expansion of its Turlock manufacturing plant is complete. The 52,000 square foot addition to the existing 200,000 square foot facility in town is one of two major expansions for Blue Diamond, a nonprofit grower-owned cooperative and the world’s leading processor and marketer of almonds. The other, in Salida, will be completed in May. The new Turlock expansion increases Blue Diamond’s value-added almond processing capabilities with an automated factory that features state-of-the-art handling, processing and packaging equipment and also provides space for a future manufacturing line to support both current business or new innovations.

The completion of the expansion comes as Blue Diamond celebrates its 110th anniversary and just seven years after its Turlock facility opened. Since 2013, Turlock’s Blue Diamond facility has received a number of accolades, including Food Engineering Magazine’s title of the 2014 Plant of the Year, as well as being named to Boston Consulting Group’s list of the fastest-growing midsize companies in the nation. The company is no stranger to building facilities quickly — Blue Diamond was able to move from groundbreaking to startup for the original plant in just 13 months. At the expansion’s groundbreaking ceremony in January 2019, Blue Diamond President and CEO Mark Jansen said they hoped to get the additional space built quickly due to the company’s rapid growth. Just over a year later, that goal was accomplished.

The new facility will be used specifically to create an integrated almond beverage base line, where, for the first time, everything needed for the product will be manufactured in the same facility. The base for Blue Diamond’s beverage line, Almond Breeze, will be created at the Turlock expansion through a process of blanching, splitting, roasting and grinding the almonds into a buttery paste, which will then be shipped all over the world to be mixed with water and sold as almond milk. Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze production has experienced double digit growth over the last 20 years. In 2018, the brand grew by 14 percent. The original Turlock Blue Diamond facility is already processing about 25 percent more almonds than the company originally thought possible for the plant’s capacity after the company recently added an almond flour line to the mix.

The expansion comes as phase two in a three-phase, 15-year project that began when Blue Diamond purchased 88 acres at the intersection of North Washington and Fulkerth Road in late 2011. Since then, companies like Hilmar Cheese and Valley Milk have made their way into the Turlock Regional Industrial Park, while already-established facilities like United States Cold Storage and Sunnyside Farms are also currently in expansion mode. The second expansion in Salida is the new Bulk 8 Warehouse at the Salida facility that originally opened as an almond receiving station in 1969. Today the 675,000 square foot facility sits on 44 acres and includes a retail nut and gift shop. The new 58,000 square foot bulk storage facility is on schedule to be completed by the end of May, providing an additional 50 million pounds of in-house bulk almond storage capacity in time to receive the 2020 almond harvest. The 65-foot-tall building includes advanced design with an automated gravity fed spiral conveyance system that improves grower delivery efficiency and reduces damage to the almonds. “It is particularly meaningful for Blue Diamond to be able to commemorate our Founders Day today by not only recognizing our humble beginnings 110 years ago, but also celebrating two key growth milestones that help secure our future,” Jansen said. “I couldn’t be more proud that, despite the unprecedented challenges businesses around the world have faced over the past two months, our incredible team has been able to sustain operations as an essential food supplier, while completing these critical expansion projects ahead of schedule to meet customer needs.”

To celebrate the expansions and give back during the coronavirus pandemic, Blue Diamond, along with partners Union Pacific and Sun-Maid Growers of California, committed to a donation match of $50,000 to help support three food banks in northern and central California that are struggling to meet significant demand from local families in need.


Crystal Creamery revamps its Modesto-made ice cream toward more natural ingredients

Crystal Creamery has gone back to basics at its ice cream plant in Modesto, switching out artificial ingredients for those closer to nature. Customers can find the new concoctions in pint and 48-ounce containers across all 29 flavors. The change brought only a slight increase in retail prices, said Brian Carden, the company’s senior director of sales, during a June 2 tour for the Modesto Bee. Out went monoglycerides and diglycerides, which stabilize ice cream during the initial freezing. In came stuff like guar gum, derived from guar beans, and lecithin from soybeans.

Artificial flavors and colors gave way to those extracted from natural sources, such as the annatto that gives vanilla ice cream its slightly yellow hue. “To me, it’s a better ice cream today than we had prior to making all these changes,” said Eddie Scoto, a production manager at the Kansas Avenue plant. “And we were able to remove things that people don’t like to see on the label.” The products are in hundreds of stores from Bakersfield north to the Oregon boarder. Retailers in and near Stanislaus County include O’Brien’s Market, Cost Less Foods, Walmart and Food 4 Less.

The folks at Crystal don’t claim that their ice cream is suddenly healthy. It’s still high in fat and sugar and is meant to be an occasional treat (never more so than during a pandemic). Carden said the changes followed market research that found many consumers concerned about what’s in their food. “They don’t like artificial flavors and they don’t like artificial colors,” he said. And the sweeteners no longer include high-fructose corn syrup, which has a bad reputation among some consumers. Crystal worked with its suppliers to assure that chocolate chips, fruit purees and other ingredients contained nothing artificial. And it simply removed any coloring for chocolate mint ice cream, which had been an artificial green. Now it’s white, but as minty-tasting as ever thanks to peppermint extract.

Crystal employs 968 people, about 500 of them at the Modesto complex. This site also produces fluid milk, butter, sour cream, powders and several other items. The milk arrives daily from farms in the San Joaquin Valley. The company does not disclose how much ice cream it produces or how much money it brings in, but Carden said sales are up since the changeover. Crystal also owns Humboldt Creamery, an organic operation near Eureka that has always had natural ingredients in its ice cream. The organic label also requires that the cattle feed not be grown with synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, among other things.

Crystal is owned by the Foster family of Modesto, which also has the separate Foster Farms poultry operation. Poultry launched in 1939, dairy two years later. The Crystal label dates to the 1901 founding of Crystal Cream and Butter Co. in Sacramento. The Foster family purchased in it 2007 and later adopted the brand for all of its dairy products. “Crystal Creamery has been a local favorite for over a century, and we are excited to take our great tasting ice cream to the next level,” said Carolina Hoyos, senior marketing manager, in a news release.


Avocados Being Tested For Central Valley Production

By Tim Hammerich with the Ag Information Network of the West

Will we see commercial avocado production move into the central valley? That’s what Joseph Mark Buhl is wondering. Along with a few collaborators, he is running a test of different avocado and rootstock combinations in the Visalia area. He wants to know, can they grow well under nets. “We’re kind of replicating almost like a Colombian rain forest in there for them. Then the hope is to keep it under 95 degrees, and the hope is to keep it above 32 degrees.”

Buhl is the cofounder of Data Harvest. He says avocados could offer central valley growers good prices, lower pesticide needs, and a water-efficient crop. “I brought this project back with Dr. Mary Lu Arpaia, UCANR Cooperative Extension, Subtropical Horticulturist about a year and a half ago when some friends of mine had shared with me what they were able to attain to these in these net houses for environments,” said Buhl. And so we thought, what a wonderful opportunity to try this out. And, so my place is in hoping that this is an industry starter for other farmers and for the central Valley. And around the world. I think there’s many opportunities and environments that haven’t been considered that this could open the doors for growing all over.”

The project is made possible in part by a USDA grant to study the concept in California and Texas.


Plant sales increase as more people take on gardening

Throughout the Central Valley nurseries are deemed essential because they sale fruits, vegetables, and outdoor plants. With numerous businesses temporary closed to stay at home restrictions, more and more people are turning to gardening swamping local nurseries with their business.


Virtual wine trail in Madera County brings community together

Madera County is home to a variety of wineries like Toca Madera Winery, which are now coming to you with virtual tastings. “We’ve turned into a virtual winery basically. So virtual tastings on Instagram and Facebook on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday at 5. We do private virtual tastings and doorstep delivery has become our thing,” said Shayne Vetter, a winemaker for Toca Madera Winery. Vetter says they’ve seen a lot of support from local wine drinkers. People purchase their estate wines, tune-in and drink up.


Valley fans crave cookies, company expands

Massive chocolate chip and churro cookies are baking all afternoon long at Crave Cookie’s new kitchen. “With the demand, we were able to keep hiring drivers, keep adding more zip codes. We moved to a bigger, more centralized kitchen in a better area for delivery zones, and we’re able to keep going.,” said co-owner Shandi Scrivner. Crave gave Action News a sneak peek inside their recent expansion as they try to keep up with customer demand. The company receives orders online and delivers them fresh to your door.

Fresno County is rated No. 1 in the nation in agricultural production

It’s begun. That shaking is the sight and sound of almond harvest in the Sacramento Valley. Almonds are one of the state’s biggest crops. This video is from Jim Morris at a Yolo County farm. The agricultural championship has returned to Fresno County. For the first time since 2013, Fresno County leads the nation in agricultural production.https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article235943027.html

A Brave New World: Latest in agriculture at Expo in Tulare

Traditionally the Farmer’s Almanac predicts rainy weather during early to middle February said Lt. Boatman from the Tulare Police Department, who was helping on the first day of the 2020 World Ag Expo on Tuesday, at the International Agri-Center in Tulare. But it was a clear, bright, and beautifully sunny day, and at least 30,000 people or more were expected to attend the show. And over the three days, Tuesday, today and Thursday, Feb. 13, there could be anywhere from 90,000 to more than  100,000 people attending from all over the world. When the gates opened and hundreds of people were lined up to enter, at about 9:30 the Star Spangled Banner was sung, and people respectfully sang with their hands over their hearts.



Sunny skies, large crowds and optimistic attendees defined the 53rd edition of World Ag Expo®. The world’s largest annual outdoor agricultural exposition came to a close on Thursday, February 13 and boasted 1,442 exhibitors on 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space. The three-day show hosted 106,357 attendees representing 46 states, the District of Columbia and 56 countries. Exhibitors reported high traffic, quality leads and a well-organized event. First year exhibitor Agland Management Consulting, Inc. was in the Hemp Education & Marketing Pavilion and their team was pleased with their first trip to World Ag Expo®.