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Family Tree’s Satsuma program continues on steady course

At Family Tree Farms LLC, in Reedley, CA, “a lot of times, the story is staying the course,” and the company’s Satsuma Mandarin program, now in its sixth year, “is just that,” said Don Goforth, director of sales and marketing, in an interview with The Produce News Oct. 11.

The program involves a block of seedless Satsumas that are grown in the Newman, CA, area along the I-5 corridor in the north end of the San Joaquin Valley, isolated from other citrus varieties that could give the Mandarins seeds, Mr. Goforth explained. More importantly, it is a truly tree-ripe operation.

“We really believe in that product, we believe in the flavor, we think it is the best,” he said. “That might be a biased opinion, but that is what we think, and it is personal to me because it goes back to when I started in this industry. So I have a built-in affirmation of the product and doing it in a tree-ripe capacity. I think it is just the best. It is super sweet.”

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Family Tree Farms is best known as a stone fruit shipper, but the Satsuma program is “consistent with the brand, which is ‘Family Tree Farms,’“ Mr. Goforth said. “We really work hard to only offer things that are consistent with the brand or we are just not going to put our name on it. Brand integrity is very important to Dave Jackson [the company’s founder and managing partner]. He just insists if our name is on the box, it has got to taste great. It has got to be consistent with our mission statement,” which is to grow the most-flavorful fruit in the world, “and this program is absolutely that.”

Family Tree’s customers “look forward to it,” Mr. Goforth said. “They have been asking for it for a long time. It is not the biggest program in the world, but I think it is exactly what we want it to be. It is very, very good. It is kind of a niche deal.” And “frankly, it is one of the easier things we sell.”

The crop size “looks to be a little bit bigger this year,” he said. Producing acreage is the same as last year, but one of the younger blocks is “a little older, so we will get improved yield out of that. Last year, the orchards experienced a little wind damage, but that hasn’t happened this year. “So far, the crop looks very, very good,” he said. The harvest “should start probably around the 10th to 15th of November ... and run all the way through Christmas, which is traditional timing for us.”

The company offers its Satsumas in a stem-and-leaf pack. “There are not a lot of people that offer stem-and-leaf, and I think that is one of the things that we do very, very well,” Mr. Goforth said. “We’ve got a good following on our stem-and-leaf program.”

In addition, “we do a five-pound consumer box, we do a two-pound bag and a three-pound bag, and ... a 25-pound bulk pack. We also do a five-pound [mesh] bag in a box, which was new last year, and we are rolling out a brand-new bag” this season, which was still in the design process. “It is really cool,” he said.