They also have embraced technology, which has helped them become more efficient and even more sustainable. So not only do they employ these new technologies, but they also have a network of industry leaders, universities and other experts that they turn to consistently, to make sure that no stone is left unturned when it comes to discovering new ways to be sustainable. For example, while some farms will do blanket schedules when it comes to applying water or fertilizer, they do not. They instead monitor pH and nutrient levels of the soil to make sure they only apply water and fertilizers as needed, specifically, and carefully. They constantly optimize all of their farming processes, making sure that every step that they do towards farming the different varieties of potatoes leads them to the most environmentally sound practices that are even possible. With water issues becoming more and more of a concern in farming, they’ve implemented state of the art irrigation systems, which allows for momentary adjustments in water flow based on anything that might be happening, including being weather sensitive. Drip irrigation is really important, and this is being utilized often, resulting in a reduction of water use by up to 20% some years. That’s another thing that I love, they are chipping away at being more efficient and working at it so hard, year after year. In order to strengthen the soil naturally, they also allow for time for some fields to rest. Additionally, their innovative potato research team is working tirelessly behind the scenes developing potato (and onion) varieties that require less water and resources to grow, all via natural cross-pollination methods. Non-gmo.
Furthermore, they use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program, which is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to controlling diseases and pests, and I can speak from experience how challenging those pests can be. They can wear you down, relentless and causing havoc, so using an IPM method versus just using something more potentially quick, is a testament to commitment. They’re taking no short cuts, using specific data collected at the farm on the life cycles of the targeted pests, and control methods are employed to deal with the insects with the least possible hazard to people, property and the environment. This is regularly updated as insects and their threats change rapidly and constantly. I guess this is why the Green Giant™ Fresh and Klondike Brand potatoes are truly the most safe, delicious and ‘healthy’ potatoes out there. Not a sales pitch, but they are truly the best I’ve had.
I have to tell this story though. Weather has been unpredictable and can undo everything that’s been done in a matter of moments. Starr Ranch was facing this kind of environmental disaster (yes, disaster) when an unforeseen frost was predicted and would soon be coming in, literally ruining all of the orchards. The workers were no longer available as having to harvest at this time was not predicted, and everything would be lost. Know what happened? All of the employees, wives, and friends, and families, gathered together to save and pick the apples by hand, in order to keep them from being killed. They literally picked 100,000 apples by hand, at that time, to divert a full loss. This is the kind of heart, passion, and respect these trees and their fruits get from the community. And Starr Ranch Growers. I can’t help but seek out their label every time I am at a store.
Melon 1 a farming family, multi-generation of a few families who have been dedicated to growing watermelons for decades, and then they partnered together. They are value-driven family people, and their company is filled with a team of folks - from warehouse and field workers, admin folks, who are like extended family to them as well. Plus, they work with other families along the East Coast who grow watermelons, and they all come together to put their label on it. They are all in this together, and they all have one goal in common: produce the best watermelons that money can buy. I have visited and toured the farm there in Florida, and I’ve thought it was just a wonderful, clean and bustling operation, filled with energy, passion and, as imagined, lots of watermelons!
They do things sustainably, too, and one thing I had not realized before was that their seedless watermelons were not bioengineered (not GMO)! Rather they are a hybrid created by the centuries-old farming process of cross-pollination. They also have been reducing the need for chemical herbicides by using natural, innovative agricultural practices to control weeds, manage erosion, reduce insects and pathogens, and preserve the integrity of the soil. The environment is so critical to them, and I think it’s so healthy and natural that alligators like it, too! I saw one lounging on the bank, on the side of the farm, as happy and as content as could be. The folks there gather together for meals, the workers are dedicated, and there’s just a good vibe all around. Their farms and family of farmers all seem to share the same values and goals. And, as a whole, they invite and initiate frequent, certified third-party audits to verify that environmental policies are followed to the highest degree on their farms and in their packing facilities. These independent inspections monitor soil, water, fertilizer use, pest control methods, too! And, that’s not all. Also, their harvest practices, packing practices, shipping practices, and food safety and security procedures. Talk about transparency!