A Higher Level
Grimmway Farms is headquartered at the south end of the San Joaquin Valley, and for most of the year the weather allows them to plant a variety of vegetables. Like other big California growers of lettuce and other leafy greens, they handle winter cold temperatures by farming in the southern deserts. So from about December through March or April, they will farm in the Coachella Valley, where Palm Springs is located, the Imperial Valley, which is east of San Diego, and Winterhaven, which is near the Arizona border.
But unlike the other big California growers of leafy greens, who farm in the Salinas Valley close enough to the Pacific Ocean to keep summer temperatures relatively cool, Grimmway doesn’t farm near the ocean. In the summer, they beat the summer heat by farming organic cool-weather vegetables at higher elevations, says Todd Brendlin. They farm in two locations from May to September or October that are not part of the normal seasonal rotation followed by other bigger grower-shippers.
One is the 300-square-mile Cuyama Valley, which is located north of Santa Barbara at an elevation of 2,300 feet. It is surrounded by mountains and sits at the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains, which backs up to Los Padres National Forest. Cuyama is home to not only acres and acres of apple orchards and ranches, but also was a well-known area for oil production, though the principal industry is now agriculture.
The other summer farming location for cool crops is Tehachapi, up in the mountains by the same name at 4,400 feet. Tehachapi is near Edwards Air Force base and is located between the San Joaquin Valley and Mojave Desert. Grimmway’s outside growing time there is limited to the summer, though they grow tomatoes year-round in their state-of-the-art greenhouse.
Foregoing the coast for the mountains to beat the warm California sun is an advantage for Grimmway because part of their strategy is to own all the land they farm, and California coast land is extremely expensive. “We’ve figured out a way to make it work year-round without having to go to the coast,” says Brendlin.