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"We are excited about this year's organic citrus season," said Tom Avinelis, chief executive officer of Homegrown Organic Farms in Porterville, CA, in an interview with The Produce News Jan. 17. “We have rolled out with an organic Navel program that is featuring high-quality fruit that is in abundant supply this year. Our volumes have gone up substantially” over the past couple of years. Homegrown’s organic citrus program is increasing in other areas. “We have a cara cara program that has really begun to expand,” Mr. Avinelis said. Consumers are delighted with “this unique piece of fruit.”

Homegrown had just completed its Satsuma season, and it was “our largest Satsuma season yet,” he said. “The fruit has been just delightful this year. the eating quality was wonderful. It was a great product and it continues to grow for us.”

Still to come are clementines and other easy peelers. Those programs will “really blossom next year, because we’ve got new acreage coming in. We will have a full-season clementine and easy peeler program for the 2011-2012 year,” he said.

Kicking off around March will be a greatly expanded grapefruit program, he said. “Most of this has been with the increase in our volume out of Southern California.”

Homegrown also has organic lemons year round.

Due to expanded acreage and new varieties, Homegrown will have an extended season in Navels this year. “We have a full-season Navel program,” Mr. Avinelis said. “We have added enough summer Navels to our program that we will have Navels available clear until May this year, which is much longer than normal.”

Going into spring and summer, “our acreage will dramatically increase” in blueberries, with production out of several districts of “varieties that are just outstanding,” enabling Homegrown to be in California blueberries “from late April through the first of July … in abundant volume,” he said.

“We also have increased our tree fruit program” with new acreage and new varieties “that will give us both white and yellow peaches and nectarines and a full array of black, red and green plums” as well as specialty stone fruit going into late spring and early summer, he said.

On the marketing side, Homegrown has introduced to its retail customers a new display bin. “That has been a wonderful program that has worked out very well for us,” Mr. Avinelis said. “It has been a great way to feature our organic products to the consumer.”

Scott Mabs, director of marketing, said that while the program is too new to have any actual data to measure, the effectiveness of the display bins, “they have been received well. The produce managers like them. The store managers think they look good and fit well” and are well constructed. “I think we will be able to capitalize on that,” he said.

“With our program, where we can go from one item to anther as we go through the calendar year, it is a good fit for the store to be able to utilize [the bins] not just for oranges” but also for grapefruit, stone fruit [and] pomegranates.       The bin Homegrown is currently using is a half-bin size, measuring 36 inches by 18 inches, with a quite heavy-duty construction, attractive graphics and castors on the bottom to make it easy to move, Mr. Mabs explained. It can be used freestanding or as an end cap.

New on sales at Homegrown is Chad Hansen who is new to the produce trade, having previously worked in sales in the banking industry. He grew up on a ranch in California’s San Joaquin Valley, according to Mr. Mabs.