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Homegrown expanding organic grape offerings over several years

STRATHMORE, CA — Homegrown Organic Farms, here, which has been handling a wide assortment of certified organic fruits and vegetables, has made the decision to “step out of any of the veg items we were doing previously” as well as other row crop items such as melons, and to focus “specifically on our permanent crops,” said Scott Mabs, director of marketing.

Many of those crops are grown on France Ranch, owned and operated by the Homegrown’s founder and president, John France, and his wife, Cindy, and on the family farm owned and operated by Homegrown’s chief executive officer, Tom Avinelis, and his wife, Karen.

Grapes are a major part of the program, as they have been since the company’s founding.

Currently, the number of grape varieties offered by Homegrown Organic Farms is fairly limited. But “we are working on future plans for planting and developing some additional acreage, both on red and green seedless,” Mr. Mabs said. “Those things are in the works over the next several years. With permanent crops, nothing is quick.”

Additional acreage will be transitioned into certified organic production, and in selecting grape varieties for new plantings the company is “looking at a lot of the newer varietals that are coming out,” he said.

For the current season, Homegrown’s grape program will consist predominantly of four varieties.

“We are continuing with our Chilean Red seedless,” he said. That variety, which was expected to start around the first of August — considerably later than last year — has a large oblong berry, about the shape of a Thompson and about an inch long that is dark red or mahogany in color. Those will run “all the way through mid-September, transitioning into Crimsons” which will start mid to late September.

Also starting around the first of August will be Thompsons, and those, too, will run through mid-September, he said. In addition, “we have a Red Globe program which will begin right at the end of August. Those go through mid-October or so.”

All of the company’s grapes are farmed by Mr. France and Mr. Avinelis, he said.

Being grown organically, Homegrown’s grapes tend not to be as early as some conventional grapes of the same varieties grown in the same districts.

Rather than push maturity, Homegrown’s organic growers allow the grapes to develop naturally, according to Mr. Mabs.

This year, Homegrown Organic Farms will be offering a couple of new styles of clamshells.

In addition to the two-pound and three-pound clamshells previously offered, “we will be doing a one-pound clamshell this year” on both red seedless and green seedless, he said. In addition, the company will be offering bi-color clamshells. “We are looking at both 1.5-pound and two-pound options” for that, and the 1.5-pounder would be a new clamshell size for the company.

Along with the grapes, Homegrown will continue with its tree fruit program through the summer as well as its summer citrus program consisting of Valencias and grapefruit. The company will also have pomegranates beginning around mid-September, Mr. Mabs said.