You know, it?s often been said that you can never go back. Well, this year we can! One of the first farm tours I ever led for Natural Products Expo West was to Rainbow Valley Orchards, and this year we get to go again. Rich Hart and Pat Raymond will open the doors of their state-of-the-art packing and bagging facility and to one of the ranches they tend. Why did I choose RVO again? Because it is a story I know people like to hear, as well as an experience that can connect folks with the process of getting citrus from the orchard to the store.
During the last 10 years, Rich and Pat have witnessed incredible changes in the natural foods industry. But their fundamental company mission has remained steady, which is to work for the sustainability of the organic citrus industry. By continuously re-evaluating their place in this market on all levels—economically, environmentally and philosophically—they have created a conduit of information by which they are better able to preserve the sustainability of their almost 250 growers and company.
During the tour we will see the facility where they package citrus fruit for at least six private-label companies. If you?ve eaten an organic orange out of a 4-pound bag, there?s a good chance it came from Rainbow Valley. We will see the Autoline optic sizer, which ?looks? at every piece of fruit, sorts it by size and delivers it to the proper box or bagging area. And bagging fruit is something they do well at RVO; almost 65 percent of their product goes into bags. We?ll also get a chance to see the Daumar bagging machine that fills bags of store-bound oranges, limes, lemons, avocados and grapefruit, quickly and efficiently.
But before we see the end process, we?ll get to see where it all begins, by experiencing firsthand the wonders of organic farming as guests of the A-Peel Ranch. It is a 10-year-old, 160-acre grove of grapefruits, nestled on the north side of Palomar Mountain off Highway 79 in Temecula, Calif. It is one of the region?s largest organic citrus orchards.
Don?t worry about packing a lunch; we?ve got you covered there. You?ll be able to sit under a canopy and enjoy a nice lunch that comes as part of the tour, as well as some fresh handmade organic lemonade from RVO?s own lemons.
During the tour we will also have numerous opportunities to sample the finest citrus the Temecula Valley has to offer. I?m talking a full variety of fruit to taste—like succulent Star Ruby grapefruit slices, meaty and chin-dripping navel oranges, or perhaps some Oro Blanco grapefruit—a delicious, sweet, white-fleshed, seedless fruit that is excellent for eating fresh or juicing. If we?re lucky, perhaps they will even have some Rio Red grapefruit, which have a natural sweetness along with the deepest red color of any grapefruit grown.
And if we?re really lucky we may be able to taste the buttery Hass avocado for which the region is world-renowned. Did you know that avocados have the highest fruit source of vitamin E? Or that they have 60 percent more potassium than bananas? This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as what you can learn from Rich and Pat.
The view from the peak point of the ranch looking over the surrounding Temecula Valley is an added bonus. I know I can?t wait to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about citrus packing and take in the magic of this mountain ranch. If it?s not magic, then the ranch is, at least, very lucky. In 2004 alone, the orchard defied the flames of the Temecula fire, survived a flood and mudslides, stood strong against the blistering Santa Ana winds, and withstood being chilled to the bark with 5 inches of snow. Yet it continued to produce beautiful, tasty organic fruit.
So if you?re willing to take a five-hour break from the show floor and exchange discussions of the merits of grapefruit seed extract for the opportunity to enjoy some fresh grapefruit, I would love to have you join me on Saturday, March 12. Space is limited, so sign up early. For more information, call 866.458.4935 or visit www.expowest.com.
Mark Mulcahy runs an organic education and produce consulting firm. He can be reached at 707.939.8355 or [email protected]
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 3/p. 32