The California mandarin season is in full swing, and for the Mountain Mandarin Growers Association, who are located in the foothills of Sierra Nevada, the volume and quality this season are looking really good. Rich Colwell, who was President of the association for seven years, and who owns the Colwell Thundering Herd Ranch, shares: “The harvest started on time in early November and it’s been a very heavy, robust year for us and the other growers in the area. The trees are laden with fruit and we are running double shifts to harvest as much as we can.”
Great season this year
The main mandarin variety grown by the association is the Satsuma mandarin, which will be available through early January. “A few of the growers will have some later season varieties like Golden Nuggets or Clementines, which can stretch a bit longer, but Satsumas are the main crop,” Colwell says.
“The weather we have been seeing for the harvest has been the best it has been in the past 20 years – we’ve only had one day of rain so far. In a typical year, rain and strong winds can damage up to 20-30% of the crop, but this season the weather has been great, so we are able to get the fruit off of the trees and to market in very good condition,” Colwell says. Also due to the fortunate weather, the mandarin volumes for Colwell’s ranch are at record volumes. “Three to four weeks ago, we already surpassed the volumes we did for the entire season last year – and that was a good year too,” according to Colwell.
High retail and direct-to-consumer demand
In addition to the higher volumes, the demand this year has been up too. “We distribute mainly in Northern California, and we are shipping a lot more fruit than normal to the Bay Area and the Sonoma Wine Country. The overall mandarin demand has been going up over the past years and we are selling as much as we can. The Association received a grant a few years ago to increase our marketing, and the demand really has outpaced the supply at this point” Colwell explains.
Right: Rich and his wife Nancy.
While Colwell’s wholesale and retail distribution is centered around the Northern California region, he also ships mandarins directly to consumers through the country. “We ship out anywhere from 50 to 100 boxes of mail orders a day across the Association to all 50 states,” Colwell says. “This shipping demand has gone up quite a bit. Especially now with the new lockdowns, combined with the increased focus on health, a lot of our existing customers who usually bought one to two boxes are now buying as many as ten boxes to send out as Christmas gifts. The local post office staff has really been doing a tremendous job helping us get out this deluge of fruit this time of year. The demand has really skyrocketed,” Colwell concludes.
For more information:
Mountain Mandarin Growers Association
Tel: +1 (916) 672-7451