21 May From Field to Plate: Strawberries
We often hear the term “field to plate” or “farm to fork” but what does that really mean? I had the pleasure visiting the California strawberry fields and checking out how these gorgeously hued berries make it from the farm to your plate at home.
Farmer Tom Jones gave me a tour of his beloved strawberry fields at Providence Farms. He explained how his strawberry field is divided into 4 plots of land. Three of the plots grow strawberries while the fourth plot is rotated every year—this year he grew arugula and lettuce on it. An integrated pest management program is used in order to control pests— this system is designed to use non-chemical practices as the first lines of defense. Chemicals are only used if they’re really deemed needed.
Peak season for strawberries is April through early fall. All of the strawberries are carefully hand picked twice a week and packed right into the plastic containers you find at your grocer. As California strawberries don’t further ripen once they’re picked, they need to be fully red when harvested. The packed strawberries are quickly taken to the coolers within 2 hours of picking.
As I’m a food safety nut, I asked Farmer Tom how strawberries are kept safe to eat. He pointed out that all the strawberry pickers wore gloves (which I observed) and are trained frequently about proper personal hygiene practices like hand washing.
Once the strawberries come in from any of the strawberry farms (like Providence Farms), they are swiftly unloaded onto the docks so inventory can be taken. As organic strawberries are grown on some farms, there is a separate area set aside for them.
After inventory is taken, the berries are whisked inside the coolers, which are kept at a brisk temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The strawberries are kept in front of large cooling fans and those that will travel for long distances are vacuum packed to maintain their freshness.
Once an order is placed, the strawberries are quickly loaded onto a refrigerated truck which maintains the appropriate temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the strawberries leave the cooler, the responsibility of maintaining the perfect 32 degree temperature is put on the trucking company. A special time-temperature device helps track the temperature of the strawberries as they travel to their destination. The trucks deliver the strawberries to supermarkets and wholesale warehouses like Costco where you pick them up and bring them home.
Let’s Discuss: Have you ever visited a strawberry farm?
This post is sponsored by the California Strawberry Commission.