Multiple growers add fig acreage

04/19/2012 01:16:00 PM
Mike Hornick

California figs are no exception to the growing demand for organics. It’s early yet, but fig growers in the Golden State are responding with new production and plantings.

“We put in 30 acres of organic mix varieties,” said Ilene Weeks, general manager of Palm Desert, Calif.-based K&W Farms Inc. “Those are in sierra, black mission and tiger stripe, also known as panache. They were seedlings last year. Some will be producing fruit, and if they do we’ll put them in a variety pack.”

The addition increases K&W Farms’ total organic fig acreage to 70.

“I haven’t figured out if it’s lucrative or if we’re making anything,” Weeks said. “But there is demand for organic figs.”

Madera, Calif.-based Western Fresh Marketing has a new 40-acre block of organic tiger stripes, sierras and black missions, bringing their total fig production in the Coachella Valley to 160 acres, said George Kragie, president.

Conventional figs start in the Coachella Valley in late May with the breba crop. As always, the first pick of brebas is expected to yield eye-popping sizes.

“The brebas are gigantic and gorgeous,” said Weeks, who grows figs near Mecca, Calif.

Brebas should continue through May, and after a break start up again in mid-June and go through July, he said.

“After the brebas, we get normal-sized brown turkeys,” he said.

Fig production at K&W Farms is expected to halt in August and resume in September. Last year production ran through December.

California figs pick up the slack when Chilean imports dry up, but the transition isn’t seamless.

“Chile ends just before California, but there will be a gap between the two,” Kragie said.

Western Fresh Marketing also will start its Coachella deal in late May.

“It looks like the crop is good,” Kragie said in late March. “We’re looking at similar numbers to last year. Our acreage will be up a little due to young plantings just starting production.”

Farther north, Fresno, Calif.-based DeBenedetto Fruit Co. LLC expects figs to start around June 1 with brebas.

“Last year we went to July 7, which is unusual,” said Maury DeBenedetto, partner. “Then we’ll have a break and be in with a second crop of calimyrnas, black missions and kadotas about mid-July into the first week of August.”

DeBenedetto Fruit grows in Kern County and markets fruit from growers in Madera and Fresno counties. DeBenedetto lately is favoring sierras and black missions.

“It seems there’s a much bigger market for missions. The sierra has caught on. We’ve grown a few sierra trees and like the fruit and the way it grows,” he said.

While Coachella Valley figs take a one-month break in August, Central Valley production is going strong.



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