California production of artichokes accounts for 98% of overall artichoke production in the United States. While there are high and low seasons for artichoke production in California, they are grown year-round. Jane Shaffer, president of Monterey Farms, has worked with the local central coast growers for the past 20 years, providing fresh tasting artichoke products to her customers. “While there are many efforts made to have a year-round supply of artichokes, there are times of the year when supply can become tight. During the winter months we might run into a bit of a shortage when the season moves out of Salinas and down south to the desert,” she explains.
“The company is always working towards implementing green and sustainable practices. Monterey Farms uses the ‘seconds’ that cannot be sold on the raw market, usually due to aesthetics, then removes all outside leaves using only the best part of the artichoke, the heart! We then give our trimmings to several local ranchers as cattle feed. Everyone wins!” she declares.
Locally sourced and processed
Monterey Farms is an artichoke processing company located in Salinas, CA. “We get all of our artichokes daily, fresh from the local central coast fields, then bring them to our facility where we hand-sort, trim, steam, and flavor them. They are then put into vacuum seal pouches and will last up to 3 months in refrigeration. Monterey Farms’ value-added artichoke hearts are unique, giving the consumer a healthy alternative to the imported jarred and canned products. We are the only company in North America who is processing artichokes in this manner. All other artichoke products are imported from Peru, Spain, or Italy,” Shaffer explains.
From food service to retail
Shaffer has had over 25 years of culinary experience and understands the intensive labor of trimming raw artichokes down to their hearts for her customers. She shares: “I wanted to provide the local chefs with artichoke hearts that were not packed in a can or a jar. As a chef I understood how to process the artichokes keeping them tender, yet crunchy and not mushy like most of the artichokes in the cans are. The company started out supplying the food service industry and four years, later, I moved into retail with nationwide sales.”
The artichokes are available in four flavors: Grilled, Natural, Herbal, and Buffalo. “Natural and Grilled were the first two flavors I started with, we later added the herbal which has sundried tomatoes and Italian herbs, then finally the buffalo flavor– because I am from Buffalo, New York. We continue research and development using other flavors and vegetables that may possibly work, but these four flavors with the artichokes have proven to be most successful. We are always looking to innovate; I believe that innovation is the heartbeat of small business,” Shaffer says.
Companies working in the food industry are very familiar with hygienic protocols. Nevertheless, Monterey Farms has tightened their regulations to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. “Food Safety is first and foremost! We have had extensive meetings and heightened protocols, keeping our crew updated on the current state of events and checked daily to ensure not only their health but the safety of those around them,” Shaffer explains.
“We are fortunate that we started distributing to retail all those years ago, because with the closing of many restaurants and schools, the food-service sales have become non-existent. But the retail sales are continuing, at a steady pace. We also do offer the option of ordering the product online, and we are seeing an increase in online sales. Artichokes are extremely good for you with many health benefits and our ‘ArtiHearts’ are natural and convenient to use,” she concludes.