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Christopher Ranch garlic gets home-field advantage with 49ers

Christopher Ranch will be a part of the new Levi’s stadium for the National Football League's San Francisco 49ers.cr49 The company's garlic will be featured in the garlic fries, aioli sauce and the Kale salad.

Christopher Ranch supplies Centerplate — the food and beverage company for Levi’s Stadium — with two kinds of garlic: freshly peeled garlic cloves and roasted garlic cloves.

Centerplate’s Gary J. Prell came out to the ranch to shoot a promotional video in which he states that most of the food items served at the stadium will be locally sourced for that fresh farm-to-fork flavor.

“As a lifelong 49er’s fan and seasoned ticket holder, I am thrilled they have chosen Christopher Ranch garlic in various food items at the new stadium," Bill Christopher said in a press release. "Using our fresh garlic on the new garlic fries is something I can’t wait to enjoy.”

CAC looks to boost consumption of California avocados with breakfast promotion

The California Avocado Commission has extended its program promoting the use of California avocados at breakfast with retail support materials, public relations outreach featuring registered dietitians spokespersons and digital media.

Participating retailers distributed a recipe booklet titled Wake up to Breakfast, featuring simple, produce-rich recipes and nutrition information. In addition to being merchandised with California avocado display bins, supermarket registered dietitians have utilized the booklets in their in-store education programs, demos and cooking classes.

BTaubDix-smBonnie Taub-Dix"Initiatives like our breakfast campaign are positioned to successfully expand usage of California avocados in support of overall category growth," Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing for the CAC, said in a press release.

The Avocado Tracking Study conducted by Bovitz Inc. in fall 2013 indicated an opportunity for increased usage of avocados at breakfast. Specifically, 76 percent and 81 percent of consumers in California avocado advertising markets said they eat avocados at lunch and dinner, respectively. In contrast only 35 percent of those consumers said they eat avocados at breakfast.

CAC aims to get more of those consumers eating avocados throughout the day.

The commission's breakfast campaign began in 2013 and drew considerable consumer attention, including 75,000 visits to a special California Avocados for Breakfast web page.

This year's breakfast web page, (CaliforniaAvocado.com/avocados-for-breakfast) went live July 30 and features a host of new recipes and tips. The program includes a breakfast-themed email to 220,000 subscribing California avocado fans as well as content on CAC's The Scoop blog.

To date its most popular recipe blog post was on the topic of Mother's Day Breakfast in Bed. Other posts featuring California avocado breakfast ideas will follow.

CAC is working with registered dietitians to share good news about California avocado nutrition and the importance of eating breakfast.

Well-known registered dietitians Michelle Dudash and Bonnie Taub-Dix provided content and outreach for CAC's breakfast campaign, including two new California avocado recipes with 130 calories or less per serving: California Avocado Pumpkin Bread with Dark Chocolate Chips and Almonds, which uses California avocados as a fat replacer in baking; and Eggs-traordinary California Avocado Breakfast Muffins, a make-ahead on-the-go breakfast option.

CAC distributed both a press release and mat release featuring these recipes and information about the benefits of eating avocados at breakfast time.

Taub-Dix also hosted CAC's breakfast-themed Twitter party on July 20.

Other social media channels are part of the program, including Facebook, where California avocados have 272,000 fans. Instagram and Pinterest pages give bloggers and consumers the opportunity to share their love of California avocados for breakfast. The most popular types of dishes include avocados on toast, eggs cooked in or with avocados, breakfast baking with avocados, especially muffins, smoothies and breakfast sandwiches.

CAC also sponsored California avocado breakfast content on the popular blog and website SeriousEats.com.

C&K Market emerges from bankruptcy, expands store offerings

C&K Market previewed what customers can expect in the future as it emerged from bankruptcy protection on Aug. 10. Stores will emphasize local produce, including more organic items and a larger selection of general merchandise offerings. Some stores will also see the addition of salad bars, hot prepared food options and sushi.

“We’ve been in the stores, talking with customers and identifying how we can serve them even better,” Karl Wissmann, C&K Market’s president, said in a press release. “With bankruptcy behind us, we’re in a position to enhance our stores. Customers can expect more selection and new offerings.

“We launched our Eat Fresh Eat Local program this summer at 11 Ray’s Food Place stores in Oregon, and customer response continues to be overwhelmingly positive,” Wissmann said. This farm-to-store produce program brings fresh items from nearby family farms to the stores. “These farmers use sustainable methods, and we’re offering our customers more than 100 varieties of local fruits and vegetables through the season. Our complementary Pick 5 CSA program lets customers select five fruits and vegetables every Saturday morning is also receiving rave reviews.

“We recognize that customers may now shop at both a big box and a local grocer,” Wissmann said. “By listening to our customers and catering to their preferences, shoppers are buying more when they shop with us. Our strategy is definitely working, and we see additional opportunities for our smaller, independent chain to add real value in the communities we serve.”

Customers will notice Ray’s Healthy Living, a new initiative that integrates natural and organic items with traditional groceries. “Our customers will enjoy the convenience of a community one-stop store, a place they can find local, regional and natural products, as well as their conventional favorites,” Wissmann said.

The remodel of the Roseburg Ray’s showcases many of the chain’s new programs. It incorporates signage to call attention to new items, such as local and organic produce and a large variety of healthy options in the grocery department, as well as highlighting standard items like produce and meat. An integrated paint palette provides context for various departments.

California legislators put re-worked water bond on November ballot

After literally years of discussions, and with a deadline only hours away, California lawmakers forged a compromise the night of Aug. 13 to put a more than $7 billion water bond on the November ballot.

The compromise was reached just hours before the midnight deadline imposed to grant sufficient time for ballots to be printed and mailed prior to the election.

One of the major discussion points was the amount of the bond that would be devoted to building new surface water storage. The final compromise includes $2.7 billion to construct two new dams within the state, which agricultural interests believe is critical for maintaining a viable industry at its current level.

The California Legislature initially passed legislation creating the bond initiative in 2009 when Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor. At that time, it was an $11 billion bond.

However, the downturn in the economy and polling indicating a lack of support for the measure caused the legislature to pull the bond from the ballot in both 2010 and 2012. That $11 billion bond was once again slated to appear on the November ballot of 2014. But again, proponents believed that a bond measure of that magnitude would have trouble passing.

Gov. Jerry Brown and key legislators have been negotiating the current bond iteration for several months. The final version calls for $2.7 billion dedicated to construction of dams, reservoirs and other water-storage solutions. In addition, projects to protect and restore rivers, lakes and watersheds will get $1.5 billion. Another $900 million will be allocated to groundwater cleanup and sustainability; $810 million to drought preparedness; $725 million for water recycling; $520 million to provide clean drinking water in some critical areas; and $395 million for flood management.

While the building of the surface storage facilities will take years to accomplish, it is the part of the bond that agriculture -- and legislators friendly to agriculture -- rallied around as an area that had to be addressed.

Industry representatives quickly applauded the efforts of the California politicians.

Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual in Visalia, CA, issued a statement that said, in part, "I believe we have turned a corner in our state in which we quit destroying the land and the people that provide the world food and fiber."

He applauded both the Republican leadership and Gov. Brown for creating a bond that can take care of the many water needs of the Central Valley.

Tom Nassif, president and chief executive officer of Western Growers Association in Irvine, CA, echoed the comments of many in stating, "Western Growers applauds passage of legislation today by the California assembly and senate establishing a $7.5 billion water bond that includes $2.7 billion for storage. We are especially pleased that the storage portion of this legislation is a continuous appropriation preventing the legislature from withholding funding. Passage of this legislation is an essential first step in adding capacity to our state's existing storage infrastructure."

Of course, the bond still has to be passed by the California electorate, which is still a daunting task. However, the compromise, which received overwhelming bi-partisan support from the Legislature, should have backers from many different factions when the campaign unfolds.

Growers shift production areas in search of water in California drought

It’s a recurring theme this year in California regardless of the commodity: availability of agricultural water, and the high cost of what water is available, is an almost universal concern.

The garlic industry in California this year has had to make adjustments, such as finding new locations to grow when they could not get water on their usual fields, or drill deeper wells where the water table has dropped, or pay exorbitant prices for water transfers. But in general, the industry expects to get through this year OK.06-Garlic-WaterA California garlic field during harvest. Diminishing availability of water for agricultural uses in California is forcing garlic growers to search out new acreage with access to water in order to maintain their production. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Ranch LLC)

Next year is the great concern,  if the three-year drought continues and water deliveries from government water projects do not improve at least somewhat over the current allocations, which in many cases are as low as zero or very nearly so.

The Garlic Co. has been fortunate this year, in that the water issue “hasn’t affected us too much” directly, said Michael Layous,  a sales and marketing representative for The Garlic Co. in Bakersfield, CA. “Our growers have their own wells on their land, fortunately,” and those wells have not yet run out of water.

But with so many agribusiness concerns looking for land with water, there is tremendous competition for the land on which  The Garlic Co.’s growers are currently growing garlic.

“More and  more people are coming further south towards Kern County to try and get land, and our growers would be some of the people they are coming after, because they are having issues with their water further north towards Fresno,” he said.

Some crops, such as grapes or almonds, “can pay fairly well to a farmer,” so  The Garlic Co. expects that it will cost more to keep their growers in coming years if the water situation does not improve.

There is some hope for improvement for next year, as climatologists are talking about a high probability of an El Niño that could bring more rain and snow to California this fall and winter.

Unfortunately, California has not made any significant improvements in its water infrastructure, either with regard to storage or to conveyance, in decades, and environmental restrictions on both storage and conveyance have only intensified, so even if California receives abundant precipitation in the months ahead, much of it will just run off into the ocean.

Farmers in drought-stricken areas of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California and the Central Coast that have been hurting for water and already have had to fallow tens of thousands of acres of once productive land formerly devoted to growing garlic, onions, melons, citrus and many other crops can expect at best only a very modest uptick in their allotments.

Even in the midst of the drought, “The Bureau of Reclamation prematurely released 800,000 acre-feet of water last fall,” and then “failed to capture 500,000 acre-feet of water from rain and snow storms in February and March,” said California Citrus Mutual President Joel Nelsen in a recent press release.  “This is the only nation in the world that has forsaken the production of food and fiber, and is actively putting farmers out of business.”

However, a wet winter would help to recharge the aquifers and keep the wells working for a while longer, although there is also talk in California of monitoring groundwater and restricting how much water a farmer can pump from his well.

“The California drought is a huge concern for all of agriculture,” said Louis Hymel, director of purchasing for Spice World Inc. in Orlando, FL, which has garlic operations in California’s drought-stricken Central Valley.

”Fortunately, we were able to get everything out of the ground securely this year,” said Hymel, referring to the harvesting of the 2014 garlic crop. “But next year, the [available] planting areas will decrease and costs are going to continue to rise. We are always looking for new virgin areas to grow, and that is always dictated by the availability of the water.”

There is much competition for the diminishing supply of irrigable land, and for a state that has been such an important supplier of so many fruit and vegetable commodities not only to the United States but to much of the world, “that is a grave concern,” he said. “Farmers are doing everything they can,” including drilling their wells deeper. But “there are a lot of challenges coming up,” including whether or not the state will “start regulating the ground water.”

Looking for land with available water on which to grow its 2015 crop is the No. 1 priority for Christopher Ranch this fall, according to President Bill Christopher.

“Of course it is going to cost us more,” because “the cost of water is going up” for everyone who does have water and there is intense competition for the available land. Growers of many commodities are “looking all up and down the state — and that is what we have done this last year. But next year will be our toughest challenge, for sure, to find enough acres.”

If the expected El Niño comes, Christopher was hopeful that the government would release more water. While agricultural water allotments this year were five percent or less, “if we can get that up to 25 or 30 percent, it will make a huge difference in all the towns in the Central Valley in getting people back to work.”

Acknowledging the dire need to have more places to store the water in those years when California does receive a surplus of precipitation, “trying to compete with the environmentalists” who object to damming rivers “is something that we will be fighting for a long time,” he said.

“I hate to say it,” Christopher continued, but perhaps if a shortage of water starts to affect “not only the farmers but the people in the cities” through the imposition of water rationing, even as billions of gallons of runoff are going out to sea, it may open some eyes.