UCCE Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County
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UCCE Master Gardeners of San Joaquin County

Posts Tagged: strawberries

Cultivating California

Only in California could arid land be converted into the nation’s salad bowl.

In the late 1800s, University of California researchers discovered how to remove salts from the soils of the Central Valley, turning it into one of the most productive agricultural regions.

UC researchers continue to play a key role in agriculture today, keeping California the nation’s leading agricultural state, from dairies in Tulare to nut farms in Newberry Springs.

A new brochure highlights the breadth of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources’ impact. UC guidelines have helped farmers boost broccoli production. UC scientists have developed sweet-tasting citrus and strawberries to meet consumer demands. UC certifies more than 95 percent of wine grapevines grown in the state, providing a reliable supply of high-quality vines for California’s multibillion-dollar wine industry. Whether it’s managing invasive pests, promoting nutrition or sustaining small farmers, ANR serves California’s communities with a focus on advising, educating and searching for solutions.

For more information, read the Cultivating California brochure.

uc anr minibrochure cover s2
uc anr minibrochure cover s2

Posted on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 8:14 AM
  • Author: Alec Rosenberg
Tags: broccoli (6), citrus (30), dairy (4), food (38), fruit (35), nutrition (123), nuts (3), small farms (13), strawberries (18), vegetables (41), winegrapes (3)

Methyl iodide (Midas) registration to be suspended in US market

I just read about an interesting development in the methyl iodide (Midas) controversy - the fumigant is being pulled from US use by the manufacturer.  While the decision is not altogether surprising in California, I admit that I didn't expect a US-wide...

Posted on Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 11:53 AM

Survey identifies 19 produce candidates for a farm-to-WIC program

A new federal voucher that gives low-income women access to a range of fruits and vegetables could provide unique new marketing opportunities for California growers.

In 2009, the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) began distributing monthly cash vouchers to low-income women with children to buy fruits and vegetables. The program reaches almost half of the infants and one-quarter of children under 5 years old in the United States.

A team of UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) researchers and nutrition advisors has been exploring the possibility of developing a farm-to-WIC program that would link these low-income consumers with local growers. The purpose of such a program would be to increase the consumption of a wide variety of fresh produce, with a focus on locally grown produce when available.

UCCE conducted a survey of produce preferences and buying habits among WIC participants in Tulare, Alameda and Riverside counties in 2010. The full study is published in the January-March 2012 issue of California Agriculture journal.

Based on the results, the UCCE team developed a list of 19 produce items to promote in a possible new farm-to-WIC program. They are:

  • bell pepper
  • broccoli
  • cabbage
  • cantaloupe
  • carrot
  • collards
 
  • corn
  • grapes
  • green beans
  • lettuce
  • mustard greens
  • nopales (cactus pads)
  • spinach
  • strawberries
  • sweet potato
  • tomatillo
  • tomato
  • watermelon

Although mustard greens and collards were not popular across all sites, the advisors gauged a potential market in Alameda County, so these were retained. Based on write-in responses, oranges were also added.

In California, which has the nation's largest WIC program, 82 local agencies serve about 1.43 million participants at 623 local centers, and WIC participants can redeem their monthly vouchers at 4,000 grocery stores statewide. About 40 percent shop at WIC-only stores, which stock and sell only WIC-authorized foods.

Stocking produce is relatively new to WIC-only stores; before rollout of new WIC food packages in October 2009, these stores were only required to stock limited amounts of fresh carrots. In the survey, most WIC participants (58 percent to 72.3 percent) responded that their preferred stores offered many choices, but fewer participants (18.5 percent to 41 percent) rated the produce quality as “excellent.” Key factors determining purchase decisions were produce quality and freshness, and nutrient value (vitamins and minerals). Cost was relatively less important, possibly because WIC participants procure the produce with the vouchers.

The list has served as a starting point for discussions with growers and WIC vendors.

“The survey showed that WIC participants were interested in purchasing fresh produce with better quality and more variety,” wrote lead author Lucia L. Kaiser, Cooperative Extension specialist in the UC Davis Department of Nutrition, and co-authors, in California Agriculture. “Some WIC participants that we surveyed said they avoided shopping at WIC-only stores in part because these interests were not met.”

A dish made with nopales (cactus pads).
A dish made with nopales (cactus pads).

Posted on Thursday, February 9, 2012 at 9:02 AM
  • Author: Janet Byron
Tags: bell peppers (1), broccoli (6), cabbage (2), cactus (2), cantaloupe (4), carrot (1), collards (1), corn (2), grapes (7), green beans (1), lettuce (10), mustard greens (1), nopales (2), spinach (2), strawberries (18), sweet potato (5), tomatillo (1), tomato (4), watermelon (2), WIC (3)

U-pick organic strawberry season opens on coast

Swanton Berry Farm near Davenport

The U-pick strawberry fields at Swanton Berry Farm near Davenport on the coast are formally opening on May 28, but if you drive out there now, you’ll get a chance to pick without a crowd. Talking to Barrett Boaen, the U-pick manager, I got to the bottom of just why their berries, also sold at local Whole Foods stores, look and taste so good.

Partly it’s the ‘Chandler’ variety, chosen for its old-fashioned sweetness and flavor although it yields only about two-thirds as well as some varieties. It’s also about not pumping up production with too much nitrogen or irrigation (more details here). Mostly, though, it’s about the picking process. A strawberry grower visiting from the East Coast recently bought two flats from the farmstand, saying he couldn’t help himself, he had never laid eyes on such beautiful organic berries, and he knew who to congratulate—the pickers.

The workers at Swanton Berry Farm


You and I are unlikely to come close to picking as well as Swanton’s unionized employees, some of whom have more than 20 years of experience at the farm. They recognize when a strawberry is as ripe as it can be, when it’s red and sweet all the way through (strawberries don’t continue ripening once they are picked). Although a less ripe berry is firmer, with a longer shelf-life and easier to transport, it has less flavor, so the pickers wait a day or two for any berry with a green tip or white shoulders to ripen perfectly. They discard berries that are soft on one side (from raindrops settling on the fruit) or have a cat-face look, which is lygus bug damage.

Moving along the rows, which are banked up to 18 inches high to reduce back strain, they harvest each perfectly ripe berry, with its green calyx attached, in a “twist and flick” motion: “you put tension on the stem above the calyx, and rotate it, so you can see 360 degrees and whether there’s any damage to the berry; then with just the right tension, the berry will pop off naturally,” explains Boaen.

In the U-pick fields, which have ocean views, visitors pick for pleasure, hopping from row to row, enjoying the fresh air, and the fragrance of the berries and the earth. Compared to the serious work in the other 20 acres of strawberries, “the 3 acres of U-pick are a playground,” says Boaen, “We provide people everything they need to be happy.”


U-pick tent at Swanton Berry Farm
Last week the fields were dusted with a zillion white flowers, which means a burst of fruit coming soon, but the cool wet weather this spring sealed the fate of the season. Growers need lots of fruit early, to sell before cherries and other fruits arrive on the market. Instead the late winter rains knocked off or damaged the flowers, and hail beat up the berries.

“It can be demoralizing,” Boaen admits. “All that energy put into the fruit after the excellent warm January was wrecked.”

Fortunately, the farm has several other crops, and the strawberry fields are filling with new berries. You can pick them this summer for $2.50 per pound (10 percent discount for bicyclists). Bring your own containers if you remember, a windproof jacket and boots in case of fog or mud, and most of all, Boaen recommends allowing plenty of time to enjoy yourself.

By mid-June, Swanton ollalieberries will be ripe, and by mid- or late July, the blackberries will be ready. Farm tours are available by reservation. Organic strawberry and ollalieberry jams, and five other kinds, are available at the farmstand or online.

Swanton's farmstand
Swanton's farmstand

Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Berry Fine!

Honey bee foraging on strawberry plant in Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

First the buds, then the blossoms, then the bees.The Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre, bee-friendly garden planted in the fall of 2009 next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis, is, in one...

Honey bee foraging on strawberry plant in Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey bee foraging on strawberry plant in Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey bee foraging on strawberry plant in Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

End result: ripe strawberries. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
End result: ripe strawberries. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

End result: ripe strawberries. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Friday, May 6, 2011 at 9:01 PM

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