Eclipse Berry Farms LLC in Los Angeles, which is in the strawberry business year-round with production in California and Mexico, has expanded its California program this year with production in the Santa Maria district.
“This is the first year we have been in Santa Maria,” said Stuart Gilfenbain, who handles sales at Eclipse along with Rick Hearst and Ashley Chavira.
In the past, Eclipse has transitioned from the Oxnard district for the earlier part of the season up to the Salinas-Watsonville district for the balance of the California deal, with certain varieties going long enough in Oxnard and starting soon enough in Salinas to provide continuity.
Now, however, “we have a good 300 acres in Santa Maria that will bridge the gap,” Gilfenbain told The Produce News Jan. 27.
As elsewhere, the strawberries are being produced on the company’s own farms, he said. “We grow our own.”
In the Oxnard district, Eclipse’s strawberry acreage is down a little bit this year, Gilfenbain said. However, the addition of the Santa aria acreage more than makes up the difference, “and we are up in Salinas as well,” he said.
Eclipse’s acreage decline in Oxnard coincides with an industry trend. There is lesss acreage planted to strawberries overall in the district, Gilfenbain noted. “The Oxnard Plain is down about 17, percent” or about 1,800 acres this year.
Industry acreage is up in Santa Maria, however.
So far, the crop in Oxnard was “looking good,” he said. “It has been perfect growing conditions,” with temperatures neither too hot nor too cold. There have also been no weather disruptions, but actually “we would love to have a little bit of rain,” not just in the strawberry growing districts but throughout the whole state, he said.
To date, there has been more volume shipped than was shipped as of the same date last year, largely due to cold weather last winter.
February was “very cold” last year, and that created “a nightmare” for the strawberry industry, he said. This year, “it looks like our volumes are going to build” going into February.
“In terms of getting set for the Valentine’s Day push,” however, “there is never enough fruit for Valentine’s Day,” he said.
In Oxnard, Eclipse’s main strawberry varieties are San Andreas, Radiance, Benecia and Monterey. “In Santa Maria, we are Albions and Montereys, and in Salinas the same,” he said.
The Santa Maria district was coming on earlier than usual, with a few berries already being harvested. Santa Maria will not be a factor for Valentine’s Day, but “they could definitely add to the mix for Easter for sure,” he said.