Grimmway Farms’ Experiences in Carrots, Organic Production

Grimmway Farms

When most people think of Grimmway Farms, they think of carrots, and why not? After all, Grimmway processes 40,000 of California’s 75,000 acres of carrots, and 80% of the U.S. total is processed in the state. On an average day, they send out so many truckloads that if those trucks formed a convoy, it would stretch for 2½ miles. That’s 10 million pounds of carrots a day. And they’re doing that pretty much day in and day out, every day of the year.

Grimmway has come a long way from when brothers Bob and Rod Grimm started growing sweet corn back in the 1960s on the same ground that is now home to Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Their nephew, Jeff Meger, now serves as president of the company, which is headquartered in Bakersfield, CA. And today they process — and grow — a lot more than carrots. In fact, while they grow about 40% of the conventionally grown carrots they pack, they grow 100% of the organic vegetables they pack, carrots and otherwise.

While many people may know that with 55,000 acres, Grimmway is America’s largest grower — a glance at AVG’s Top 100 would tell you that — nearly half that acreage is organic. In other words, with 26,000 acres, Grimmway is far and away America’s biggest organic farmer. The organic division is called Cal-Organic, and it started with just a quarter acre of lettuce back in 1983.

Ground Control

In 2001, Grimmway acquired Cal-Organic, which has obviously enjoyed tremendous success. Ask him why, and Grimmway’s organic farming manager, Todd Brendlin, will tell you it’s the very fact that they own all their organic acreage. “There are no outside growers; it’s 100% in-house,” he says. “We are able to grow a consistent product year-round because we control it from the ground up.”

Brendlin’s not a member of the Grimm family, though his family is in farming. His dad, Bill Moresco, grows lettuce for Tanimura & Antle in Salinas. Brendlin also worked for his uncle at Ocean Mist Farms in the Coachella Valley before joining Grimmway in 2002. He began overseeing organic production in 2005. Right away, Brendlin was surprised at the tremendous quality they were getting.

“I never thought you could do it,” he says. “I never believed you could control the pests and nutritionally provide for the crop using organic materials.”

One factor is that organic materials have improved in recent years. But even more important, he thinks Grimmway’s strategy of planting organic crops on their best ground is huge.

By best ground, Brendlin means good soil tilth, drainage, sufficient levels of essential nutrients, plenty of microorganisms, low weed pressure, and the ideal pH range for the crop. Most vegetables thrive in the pH range of 6.0 to 7.0, and pH has enormous effects on productivity. In soils with low pH (acidic soils) phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium are most likely to be deficient.

The most common mistake growers who begin farming organically make is to use some of their worst ground for an organic crop. It’s a mistake Brendlin sees often, and he thinks it’s because the grower is doing it as an experiment, and so does not wish to risk using his best ground. But by using ground that produces marginal crops conventionally, the novice organic grower is practically guaranteeing his first organic crop won’t be successful.

“That’s what I see people doing all the time,” he says. “But crops grown
in healthy, balanced soils don’t have
to be sprayed.”

Rotation Is Crucial

Interestingly enough, the reason Grimmway farms 50-plus organic crops gets back to carrots, at least in part. Tellingly, on the conventional side, their primary focus is growing carrots and potatoes. Even with the use of soil fumigants and conventional chemicals you must have a large land base in order to rotate a root crop to prevent pests and diseases. For example, carrots are especially prone to root-knot nematodes. They don’t have the tools of using conventional soil fumigants on their organic ground. So after a carrot crop, they will rotate into a brassica, solanaceae-potato or tomato, or leafy green. “Carrots are the main driver for us,” says Brendlin. “We need crops to rotate with carrots; otherwise we’d have a lot of fallow ground sitting there.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge in organic farming is weeds. Coming over from conventional farming a few years ago, Brendlin thought there was no way they were going to be able to handle the notoriously tough nutsedge. There’s no secret to how to eliminate it; it just takes a lot of work. After every crop they go through the field with a spring tooth chisel, till up the nutsedge, and let it dry out on top of the soil. “It’s not a one-time deal — it can take several years to eliminate out of your field — but it can be done,” he says. “That’s another reason we own all our own ground, over the years we’ve been able to eliminate virtually all the weeds from our fields to the point that we have a weed-free policy.”

Weed-free does not mean sterile, though, not by a long shot. One of the rewards of organic farming, says Brendlin, is achieving a balanced healthy soil rich in organic matter that’s full of beneficial organisms and bacteria that are constantly breaking down that organic material so it can be available to the plants. Beneficial organisms also compete with and suppress disease-causing organisms. “Organic farming is a production system that sustains the health of the soils,” he concludes. “More often you are feeding the soil, not the plant.”

For more information on baby carrots, Grimmway Farms locations, and colored carrots, please turn the page

Pages: 1 2 3 4

Leave a Reply

3 comments on “Grimmway Farms’ Experiences in Carrots, Organic Production

  1. It is nice to see a producer who has divorced themselves from the big chemical companies. Everyone KNOWS it can be done and Cal-Orgainc is proof. We can grow our food, be just as productive, but without poisoining our envrionment and ourselves with herbicides and toxic pesticides. We can work with nature or against her.

  2. I'm making sure that your Grimway Farms carrot products that Food Lion sells do not have any sulfates or sulfites in preserving them as I have a serious allergy to sulfates & sulfites and break out in hives! Thanks for your help with this matter! Kindest regards, Marcia Kerr

  3. This article is very informative.I would want to have some practical experience in growing organic plants .Would you allow me to come to your farm and have some practical experience.I would anxiously awaiting your reply Thank

Featured Stories

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

LaborWestern Growers President Speaks Out About Passage Of C…
September 29, 2014
California Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed a Senate Bill 25 and approved Assembly Bill 1897. Read More
BerriesDrought Could Impact Spring California Strawberry Crop
September 29, 2014
Ventura County expects reduction of acres planted as surface water availability takes a hit. Read More
Apples & PearsUnusual Weather Slows Michigan Apple Maturity
September 29, 2014
Fruit may have lower Brix levels, soluble solids lower than normal. Read More
BerriesFlorida Blueberry Growers Ready To Rise To The Occasion…
September 29, 2014
Florida Blueberry Growers Association president Dudley Calfee provides state of the industry insight. Read More
CitrusFlorida Announces Its 2014 Woman Of The Year In Agricul…
September 29, 2014
Longtime award recognizes women who have made outstanding contributions to the state’s farming sector. Read More
FruitsNational Security May Depend On A Healthy Diet [Opinion…
September 29, 2014
Your bottom line as well as the future of our country will depend on promoting healthy eating to the next generation. Read More
CitrusFlorida Produce Industry Embracing Progress, Confrontin…
September 29, 2014
Production pressures and politics hot topics at FFVA’s 71st Annual Convention. Read More
BerriesDon’t Let Your Guard Slip When Taking On Thrips
September 27, 2014
Tiny insect pests can present big problems for blueberry growers. Read More
CitrusFlorida Farmers Finding Ways To Cultivate An Environmen…
September 26, 2014
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam salutes producers putting their best management practices forward. Read More
CitrusGrowers Should Partner Wisely To Stay Afloat Amid WOTUS…
September 26, 2014
According to Florida Grower editor Frank Giles, the Clean Water Act is muddying waters for farmers. Read More
GrapesCalifornia Winegrape Industry Leaders Adapt To Drought
September 26, 2014
State’s players stand in good stead despite numerous challenges, surveys show. Read More
GrapesGet Ready For Unified Symposium
September 26, 2014
Registration and housing slated for industry’s biggest event to open Oct. 28, and the hotel rooms go fast. Read More
BerriesIs The Diaprepes Root Weevil An Emerging Blueberry Pes…
September 26, 2014
Reports indicate longtime citrus nuisance might be tempted by the fruit of another. Read More
PotatoesIdaho Potato Commission Appoints New Commissioners
September 26, 2014
Hardy and Blanksma to serve three-year terms; Christensen reappointed. Read More
PotatoesNorthwest Potato Crop Value Up 2% From 2012
September 26, 2014
The Idaho, Washington, and Oregon combined potato crop is valued at $1.98 billion for 2013. Read More
Farm ManagementUSDA Takes Steps To Help Farmers Manage Risk
September 25, 2014
New programs offers farmers protection against price drops and additional unforeseen risks. Read More
Insect ControlTake The Battle To Bagrada Bugs
September 25, 2014
Crops Affected The bagrada bug (Bagrada hilaris) is a type of stinkbug that can cause substantial damage to cruciferous crops Read More
BerriesBeat Blueberry Gall Midge
September 25, 2014
Due diligence required in the identification, tracking, and control of this flying fiend. Read More