I like sweets. A lot. If there is a reasonable amount of sugar in it, odds are, I will enjoy it. One type of food I really love is fruit. On a visit to Kingsburg Orchards in Kingsburg, Calif., I discovered a new favorite: the pluot.
No, I am not making this up. Kingsburg Orchards grows nearly 3,000 varieties of fruits. These include apricots, kiwis, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums and pluots. The pluot is a hybrid of a plum and apricot. There are different variations of this fruit, depending on the parent varieties used. The ones I tasted were incredible! Very sweet and juicy. One thing that intrigued the group was the way they were grown.
All fruit is hand picked on the farm. This ensures high-quality fruit before heading to processing.
Tutor trellis’ grow the fruit in a v-shaped formation to allow full of sunlight to leaves. This creates an even distribution of sugar making the fruit at the bottom of the plant just as sweet as the top fruit.
Apple 1, a machine specifically designed for Kingsburg Orchards, is used to chop the tops and sides of the plants to best utilize trellis design (see in second image). Apple 1 eliminates the need of 40 workers. Each wheel is independently driven. Maintenance is performed twice each day.
Integrated Pest Management systems are used to spread pheromones that will prevent insect damage from pests like moths. Plants are sprayed twice each year for prevention of problem pests.
Every forth row is a different variety. The coloring on the small pump indicates which variety so workers can find it in the orchards.
On a normal day, fruit is processed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. During the busy season, those hours can be extended from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. All fruit must be sold 14 days after picking or it is a loss for the business. Fruit is sorted by weight and four different grades, and then packed based on brands.
The Kingsburg Maiden is a pluot variety sold to Kroger grocery stores
. I found this particularly exciting since Kroger is a chain store throughout Ohio. Ohioans I encourage you to seek out this fruit because it is phenomenal!
These are a variety of peaches sold specifically to Japan. They are the largest peaches I have ever seen!
I saved the best for last. Above are some Sugar Tree pluots. These are the highest-quality fruit produced at Kingsburg. From seeing all of the different fruit they grow, it was evident the level of passion and enthusiasm the employees shared.
Moral of the story: it is sweet that Kingsburg Orchard was become so successful in producing high-quality fruit with its growers. They reach out to niche markets and use their resources to increase production efficiency. From building their own Apple 1 machine to finding markets in Japan, this business is one to model in the food and agriculture industry.