Gilroy, CA-based Christopher Ranch LLC, one of the nation's larger producers
and distributors of garlic, has been growing, packing and selling organic garlic
since the mid-1990s.
Bill Christopher, managing partner of the company, said that it is simply a
case of filling the needs of the firm’s customers.
Vice President of Marketing Patsy Ross elaborated that the company began its
organic production because "we started getting inquiries from our
Mr. Christopher said it took several years, of course, to transition land into
organic production but once the company accomplished this feat, it began
offering a full complement of organic products to its customers.
The roster of items included organic bulbs, as well as organic peeled garlic
and organic diced and crushed product in jars.
Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are the company’s biggest customers of the
organic offerings, Mr. Christopher said, but noted that the customer list
includes many conventional supermarkets as well as foodservice operators.
Most of the organic garlic used for these products is grown in California, but
the company also sources organic production from both Argentina and
Mexico during the two or three months of the year that California is not in
Ms. Ross said that the move into organic production followed the same mode
of operation that Christopher Ranch has been following for its more than 50
years of business — being an innovator in the garlic industry. When the
company introduced organic garlic in the 1990s, it was one of the first firms
to offer that product, she asserted.
Christopher Ranch was started in 1956 by Don Christopher, Bill’s father. He
began as a vegetable grower but soon added garlic to the mix as it was
already a popular crop in the Gilroy area.
Soon thereafter, however, he discovered that the money was in the marketing
of the product, not in the growing of it, and so Christopher Ranch increased
its production and got into the packing and shipping business as well.
Within a decade, garlic became the company’s top item and it has been
specializing in it ever since. The firm increased its offerings throughout the
years and eventually became a leading garlic producer and distributor in
California and the United States. Today, Christopher Ranch produces about
half of the garlic grown and sold from California.
Ms. Ross said that organic production has registered double-digit growth
every year for the past several, though she acknowledged that total organic
sales still make up only a small percentage of the firm’s business.