Deardorff Family Farms, based in Oxnard, CA, has joined forces with a well-known Salinas, CA, grower to expand the firm’s organic celery and leaf lettuce program.
“This gives us a year-round supply of organic vegetables in those categories,” said Tom Deardorff II, president of the firm.
Besides boosting the firm’s organic production, it is the organization’s first foray into the Salinas Valley.
Mr. Deardorff told The Produce News that this move might be followed by further expansion into Salinas, but only on the organic side. “I don’t see us competing on the conventional side with the Salinas firms,” he said.
He explained that to get the volume needed to be a year-round organic shipper it is necessary to expand to other areas. “We are very excited about this move. I don’t see exponential growth in the organic category as we have seen in the past five years, but I do see good steady growth continuing. One of the best ways to grow our presence [in the organic category] is to partner with established growers in other areas.”
The new Salinas organic program combines the marketing and sales expertise of the Deardorff family with the Salinas Valley growing expertise of the Bunn family. Both firms were started in the 1930s and are now being run by the fourth generation of their respective families.
The Deardorffs began farming in Los Angeles County when it was much more rural over 70 years ago. As urbanization enveloped Los Angeles, the company moved its growing operations both north and south and eventually moved the headquarters to Oxnard. Today most of the firm’s production comes from Ventura County, but it does source from other areas as well.
Mr. Deardorff said that the company has been building its organic farming operation in Oxnard over the last several years and now offers more than 15 organically grown commodities packed in the “Deardorff Organics” label. Celery tops the list followed by tomatoes, strawberries and the leaf lettuce items.
About 50 years after the Bunn family began farming in the Salinas Valley, the organization launched an organic program in the 1980s under the “Bunny” brand. The family has grown for other shippers and has also marketed and sold its own production over the years.
For the past several years, the Bunn family has concentrated much of its efforts on a demonstration farm and produce stand that it operates in Salinas, while it leased some of its land to other growers.
Mr. Deardorff said that the Bunn family increased its growing operation this year and was looking for an established shipper, so the opportunity was there for the two longtime farming families to combine forces.
“Organics have been amazing for our family and our business, and our relationship with the Bunns is a great opportunity to expand our offerings while preserving two strong family traditions,” said Mr. Deardorff in a July 14 press release. “Both our families are committed to organics, and to ensuring the health of the environment, people and the community at large. The fact that the parallel paths of our two families have now crossed is just one more testament to how organics can bring together good things and good people.”
In the same press release, David Bunn, added, “We are excited to be working with the Deardorffs and hope to build a long-lasting relationship to support our organic farming.”
Deardorff Family Farms will primarily market the Bunn production using the “Deardorff Organics” label, but will have some special packs of the “Bunny” label available from time to time.