The group were lucky enough to be invited to Grimmway farms near Bakersfield (Kern County). This country contributes 7.25 billion dollars to the United States economy every year, highlighting the productivity of agriculture in the area.
The business specialises in growing, processing and marketing carrots both organic and conventional. The business grows around 35000 acres of carrots across the US every year as the mainstay of their business. They have also ventured into organic vegetables mainly to large wholesalers. Where they grow 12000 acres a year of around 50 different crops.
First we were given a tour of Grimmway farms 160 acre processing plant of carrots both conventional and organic. Grimmway farms were the first processors to grow large carrots and chop them up into baby carrots for sale. Almost all of the waste from this process is taken into their juicing plant or sold as part of a pack of smaller carrots. The factory packages over 4000 tonnes of baby carrots every day using and recycling nearly 6 million tonnes of water in the process.
Afterwards we were taken to see the harvesting operation in which 4 row top lifter harvesters were used to put carrots into 25 tonne lorries for shipping back to the factory.
The carrots are grown in a 3 year rotation with flood irrigation as a key tool for controlling diseases and weeds in the soil. The ability to plant and harvest carrots all year round gives them a huge opportunity to supply fresh produce as well as giving an extremely large output for every acre.
Again the irrigation of these crops is absolutely key in areas of the country with an annual rainfall of 2-3 inches a year. The sprinkler system used in field has a very high labour cost, which with rises in national wage will present a massive increase in costs to the business.
The scale of the business and efficiencies over such a large area were what impressed the group most as well as being the chance of a lifetime for myself as an organic carrot grower!