Diversification is key to success for organic California grower
The decision to transition to organic is one faced by many farmers as they weigh up the cost and potential benefits of becoming an organic grower. "Back in 2013, D’Arrigo California started to get requests from customers to carry organics," said Matt Amaral, of D'Arrigo. "Because of the demand, the company started to do some research, and realized that this segment of business was new, and had the opportunity to grow in the future. We combined our market research with the belief that we could utilize our proven growing techniques and business ideals to become a premier organic grower. Due to the vast land base we occupy we made the decision to start to transition ground from conventional to organic."
Organic success from diversification
To mitigate the amount of risk to their business, D'Arrigo expanded their organic offerings. They currently grow two organic commodities under the Andy Boy label (romaine hearts and broccoli rabe) and they have found success in custom growing organic commodities and a variety of organic value added products for processors. They did this to create a presence in multiple categories as well as to identify potential opportunities for future growth. D’Arrigo feels it is beneficial to offer the romaine hearts and broccoli rabe in both conventional and organic as this would enable a greater choice for the buyer.
"We believed that we could be successful in this segment through two different avenues," noted Amaral. "The first avenue, was by offering high-quality organic products in our well-known Andy Boy label year-round, and secondly, by providing raw product for processors that would be used in the value-added section of the produce department. Our active participation in both avenues allows us to diversify our business portfolio and would also allow for success."
"We understand there are consumers that will only shop in each segment," he continued. "So the decision was made to grow both offerings in order to provide options for our valued customers in the Andy Boy label."
Constant learning leads to favorable outcomes
Despite the fact that organic farming as a certified, regulated industry is no longer new, growers continually take the time to learn and experiment in order to tweak their practices so as to ensure continued success in the quality of the product as well as in the market.
"When we first researched organics, the two major hurdles, from a growing standpoint, was the three year transitional period, along with the expected lower yields that are common due to the nature of organic farming," said Amaral. "When talking about the transitional period, we were able to move through that time period and during this time you have to sell organic product as conventional, therefore, getting back less money from the customers because it is not technically organic until after the third year."
"Just like any new venture, there is a learning curve and despite being long-time conventional growers, we still had a lot to learn as an organic grower," he continued. "Whether it had to do with seeds, growing practices, or just how products react to Mother Nature differently than conventional plants, we have learned a lot in a short time period. Through this learning curve, we have gained valuable insights which will allow us to mitigate our growing costs. In addition, garnering additional business will help spread costs over a large base of product."
Future demand to dictate further direction
Amaral noted that D'Arrigo continues to monitor customer demand and will consider any expansion to their program, should they feel it will have a sufficient market. "In a short two years, we have seen tremendous growth in both of our organic items," he said. "With that in mind, we are open to expanding our Andy Boy label commodities and growing additional value-added products. The organic produce segment is continuing to grow and mature, and our goal is to maximize our land diversification and sustainable growing practices to meet the needs of our customers and consumers today and into the future.”
For more information:
D'Arrigo Brothers Co. of California - Andy Boy
Publication date: 10/4/2017
Author: Dennis M. Rettke
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