Homegrown Organic Farms remains a leader in blueberries
Over the last two decades, blueberries have transitioned from a specialty crop into a global commodity available year-round. Homegrown Organic Farms has been a staple in the category.
“Blueberries have grown to be probably the highest gross sales commodity for the company,” said Stephen Paul, stone fruit and blueberry category director for the Porterville, CA-based company.
Homegrown Organic Farms was the originator of bringing California organic blueberries to market, starting harvesting in the San Joaquin Valley and transitioning north into Oregon as the season progresses.
According to Paul, the region’s dry and sunny climate conditions and Homegrown Organic Farms’ southern highbush varieties, provide king-size berries — all grown using only certified organic farming methods.
The California blueberry season started in April and the harvest finishes up in mid-June, when Oregon begins, which will last until October.
“We had a nice quality crop in California this year,” Paul said. “Our biggest challenge, believe it or not, was not the fruit itself, but the ability to get labor to pick it as an industry. We didn’t have too big of a problem, but it did pose some challenges during certain peak times, and we’re basically competing against other commodities that need to get picked.”
Early indications on the Oregon crop are that it will also offer rich blueberries and have a successful season.
“We thought we were going to have a seamless gap going from California to Oregon, but we ended up having some high heat in early June, so that created some challenges,” Paul said. “So, we’ll have a small gap.”
Homegrown Organic Farms continues to slowly expand acreage for the category and projects major growth over the next five years.
“We’re really excited with what we’re seeing as far as demand in the category,” Paul said. “And what we’re really excited about is that some of the newer varieties that will be coming online with us are kind of fitting the needs of the customer size and flavor crunch. Down the road for the industry, if you don’t have those things, then you’re going to be running into potential problems.”
Blueberries sold very well during COVID-19 and Paul feels that has a lot to do with the pandemic making people take a long look into their eating patterns. “I think it forced people to do a lot of things differently and forced people to take a self-evaluation on their health,” he said. We know blueberries are extremely healthy and they’re very easy to eat. So, I think the category sits in a pretty good position.”
Being a success in blueberries comes down to several things for the company — consistency, quality growers, transparency and providing excellent quality.
“In today’s world, I just think the demands of having a constant supply of this is becoming the norm,” Paul said. “It used to be a specialty crop, but now it’s a staple commodity that you need to offer year-round.”