California carrots may not win any beauty contests in the near future, but supplies will be plentiful and taste and quality should be as good as ever, said Tony Ramirez, salesman and buyer for Coosemans L.A. Shipping Inc., Los Angeles.
The only problem was the rain.
Record precipitation fell in many parts of the state over the past few months, causing some blemishes and cosmetic flaws on carrots, he said.
“Some of them got beat up by the rain,” Ramirez said.
But in late February, there was no rain in the forecast for Southern California, and Ramirez said things should be “back to normal” by late March.
The California carrot deal is important because 85% of U.S. fresh-market carrots are grown in the Golden State, said Joe Nunez, vegetable and plant pathology farm adviser for the Kern County Cooperative Extension.
He estimated that there are fewer than 50 carrot growers in the state, most of whom are committed to Grimmway Farms in Bakersfield, Wm. Bolthouse Farms Inc., Bakersfield, or Kern Ridge Growers in nearby Arvin.
Carrots are grown in the San Joaquin, Antelope, Cuyama, Imperial and Coachella valleys.
Kern Ridge Growers was harvesting in the Bakersfield area and in the Imperial Valley in late February because of the rain, account manager Chris Smotherman said.
“We had to split our harvest because we weren’t getting what we needed out of Bakersfield,” he said. “We were bringing in too much mud from the field.”
The company usually harvests in Bakersfield until March.
“We’re only a couple of weeks early,” Smotherman said.
Kern Ridge will harvest in the Imperial Valley until June, then return to Bakersfield.
“Size and quality are good,” he said. “We’re just having problems getting them out of the field.”
The rain had not affected prices, he said.
Babe Farms, Santa Maria, Calif., anticipated the rain and harvested as much as possible before the latest storm hit in an effort to build inventory, said Ande Manos, marketing and business development manager.
But still, the company came up short on some items.
Shipments of its baby carrots could be limited until the beginning of spring, she said.
Bob Bigiogni, president of B&P Packing Co., Soledad, Calif., said he was a bit disappointed by the size of his carrots in February.
Although the company sells some fresh jumbo carrots itself, most of its production goes to processors and to major packaged-salad producers.
“Our focus is growing a larger carrot than most of the other guys,” he said. “We grow a carrot that’s really as big as your forearm.”
The carrots typically are used for juicing, dicing or shredded for salad mixes.
“Rain has not helped me a lot on my planting schedule,” Bigiogni said.
The company was running a little behind on harvesting in February because of difficulty getting the machine-harvested carrots out of the ground, he said.
In addition, carrots typically are a bit smaller in winter than they are later in the year anyway, but an unusually cold December followed by rain in January and February resulted in even smaller carrots than usual.
“I and my customers wish we had a larger carrot right now,” he said in late February.
In Oxnard, Calif., Boskovich Farms Inc. continues to ship limited volume of its Mexican-grown iced, bunched carrots with tops on, said Russ Widerburg, sales manager.
The carrots are a popular mixer item, he said, and have gained a strong following over the past 25 years.
They come in conventional and organic varieties and are available seasonally from late December until the end of May.