The Santa Maria Valley Leadership Class of 2023 conducted their Agriculture Day on May 5th, 2023. The day was spent visiting local farms, making butter, listening to how Agriculture awareness is being brought to our community, and having the opportunity to learn about Allan Hancock College Viniculture program.
The day was highlighted by learning about a local company that is a major player in the world of berries. Driscoll’s berries (located off Stowell in Santa Maria) controlled 1/3 of the $6 billion berry market in 2017. This family-owned company has a major distribution center in Santa Maria, where they send locally grown products all over the world. Known for strawberries, this company utilizes technology at every step of the process as we learned that the contracted farmer uses an “app” to log outbound shipments to the processing facility. The LSMV class witnessed as a shipment was brought into the distribution center, where the products were validated, labeled, and went through a quality assurance check to ensure that color, and sugar levels are appropriate and meeting the Driscoll’s standard. Things move quickly in this entire process as the average time that it takes to move a berry from being picked to being refrigerated is approx. 2 hours. The distribution is even more impressive with the berries hitting east coast stores or Asian markets within 5 days. On a busy day, this facility will process 150,000 crates, and with each crate being 9 pounds, there is approx. 1.35 million pounds of berries being produced and distributed from this single distribution site.
What makes Driscoll’s unique is their attention and dedication to research and design. The LSMV group was fortunate enough to view their test farm, where new varieties of berries are being tested and produced. If these varieties of berries are successful, they will be given to independent-contracted commercial growers (ex. Betteravia Farms) who will plant and harvest the new product.
Driscoll’s was asked about how local storms have affected the berry production and if any financial impact was felt. At this point, they have noticed that their season is a little pushed back. It is unsure how the yields will be and stated that they are just hitting their season. They did state that farmers across the state have lost about 1000 Hectares (2,471 Acres) of berries due to floods and the heavy rain. The LSMV group also had a chance to visit Babe Farms (a 70-80 acre locally owned farm). Similarly, Babe Farms indicated that local weather impact forced them to stop growing production in Santa Maria with crop production occurring in Mexico.
A tip of the cap to all of the farmers and individuals in agriculture. We all appreciate the hard work that is competed in order to allow us to have food on our table. Thank you to all of our local farmers!
If you would like to learn more about the local Farm Industry, we would encourage you to check out Farm Day, put on by SEE-AG, on September 23, 2023.
Above: The LSMV class tours Driscoll’s facilities during Agriculture topic day.