WATSONVILLE, Calif. — Providing top-quality, sustainably grown strawberries is a priority of Southern California grower-shippers.

California Giant Inc. even has a corporate responsibility statement that the company updates every year, said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing.

“We try to make sure we are responsible and being good stewards of the land,” she said.

Not wasting resources is one way the company tries to ensure that its operation is sustainable.

The firm’s box makeup facility recycles everything that comes out of it, she said, and the company uses recycled paper for brochures and has installed skylights in buildings so that they use less electricity for lighting.

The statement also has a section about community support, awareness and involvement, she said.

Growers for Red Blossom Farms in Santa Ynez use less pesticide than in the past, and they use natural methods of combating pests, like releasing good bugs to clean up the bad ones and spraying less, said Craig Casca, director of sales.

Sustainability means not comprising the environment for future generations, he said.

“We’re doing everything possible to be as clean and as fresh as we can be.”

Boskovich Farms Inc., Oxnard, has been following sustainable practices for years, said Lindsay Martinez, director of marketing.

“Now it is a hot topic,” she said.

The company reduced the amount of pesticides and chemicals it uses, is more energy efficient than in the past, changed to biodegradable containers, reduced waste and implemented recycling programs to reduce landfill usage, she said.

Some conservation measures, like drip irrigation, actually are more effective ways to produce crops, she pointed out.

Locally grown also can be considered part of a sustainability program, but Jewell said that buzzword can have a variety of definitions.

“It can mean grown within 100 miles, within the state, in a particular part of the country or even domestic versus imported,” she said.

“California grows a good-quality strawberry that can be shipped to customers all over the U.S. and be sold profitably for growers, retailers and for the end consumer to enjoy,” Casca said.

Strawberries grown closer to home may have a higher sugar level because they can be left on the plant longer to ripen more, he said.

“But we’re following all the protocols that need to be followed to grow a good-tasting, safe, quality product that people can enjoy in all 50 states and Canada.”

California Giant tries to add a local angle to its Florida berries that are distributed along the East Coast and in Florida, Jewell said.

“We actually have a label that says Florida Giant instead of California Giant that we use in Florida,” she said.

Chains such as Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Inc. like the idea because they like to promote the local angle, she said.

This will be the fourth year the company will offer the Florida Giant label.

Casca said doing all the things that retail buyers and consumers are clamoring for can get expensive.

“If they want all this stuff to be done, they’re going to have to look at raising the prices,” he said.

“The chains are getting squeezed by the Wal-Marts and the Costcos of the world,” he said.
“The bottom line is, they need to sell more at a profitable (price).”

“(Growers) can’t continue to lower the price when we’re asked to do things that are raising the price,” he said. “Something’s got to give.”