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Homegrown adds Pummelos to citrus program, expects future growth in Mandarins

Homegrown Organics LLC in Porterville, CA, which had its first year of production in Mandarins in the 2011-12 season and increased volume the following year, will have similar acreage in production this year to what it had in 2012-13. “But we have on the docket some good increases penciled in for the following year” and the year after, said President Scott Mabs.

“We have quite a bit of new Mandarin acreage” planted, and as that comes into production, Homegrown will experience volume increases. “We’ll have some increases in 2014-15” and the year following, he said. “We have quite a few new plantings that will be coming at us in that time frame.”

The program will consist primarily of organically grown Satsumas, clementines, W. Murcotts and Gold Nuggets.

Homegrown expects to begin shipping clementines this year around mid-November and go from there into the Murcotts and Gold Nuggets. “All those items are on the docket for our Mandarin program this year.”

The company is introducing new packaging for clementines this year. It is a two-pound pouch bag “that will be used within our program as an option,” Mabs said.

04-CalCitrust-Homegrown-ScoScott MabsNew in the company’s organic citrus program this year will be organic Pummelos. “We will start those around the middle to end of November,” he said.

Homegrown’s organic lemon program is nearly year-round now, thanks to new acquisitions going in to the 2012-13 season, Mabs said. “We come out of all three districts” in California.

There may be just “a couple of small gaps” in the program over the course of the year, he said.

When The Produce News talked to Mabs Oct. 17, Homegrown had just started lemons from District Three, which is the Southern California desert. “We are running with that right now, just ramping up on the picking and production side,” he said.

“We have a new lemon pack line at our Riverside facility, which is running for the first time this year,” he said

Navels are a major component of Homegrown’s organic citrus category. Mabs expected to start Navels around Nov. 5 to 10. “The Navel crop is early this year, but we are holding off, waiting for a little bit more color and for the fruit to eat a little bit better,” he said.

Overall, the state’s Navel crop is down from last year, Mabs noted. “There will still be fruit available, but it is off a little bit,” the conventional as well as the organic. “I think the organic crop is off a little more than the conventional,” he added.

Homegrown will be packing its Navels this year in its new Kingsburg, CA, facility. “This will be the first time we are starting up our Kingsburg citrus line,” Mabs said. “We’ve been working on the pack line for citrus over the summer and it is ready to go.”

While the same size is being used on the packingline as is used for stone fruit, the front end of the line is citrus specific and is all newly installed equipment, Mabs said. Among the features of the packingline are a print-on-demand PLU system “that we use which gives us some flexibility on different items and reduces inventories. It is an efficient method of managing label inventory.” Additionally, “we have a number of post harvest organic control measures in place that are on the line to mitigate issues with decay and other things that we fight from an organic side, without the use of fungicides,” he said.

Grapefruit are also part of the company’s citrus program. Those will start in March and run through August or into September, he said.

Much of Homegrown’s citrus is company grown, but the company also handles volume from outside growers.

With lemons, for example, “our own production accounts for around 60 percent of the deal,” with the remainder coming from outside growers, Mabs said. The same is true with Mandarins and Navels.

The Pummelos and grapefruit come from outside growers, he said.