I love seeing how our food grows. In southern California we are very lucky to have several farms all within a few hours of Los Angeles. Last week, Erika Kerekes of In Erika’s Kitchen invited me to go on a blueberry farm tour near San Diego with other food bloggers. The farm is Fairfield Farms. Blueberries never tasted so good, picked right off the vine, warmed by the sun.
The Process – How Blueberries Get to Our Stores
This was one of the most beautiful farms I’ve ever seen. Where I come from (Delaware), all the farms are very flat, no hills and usually bordered by rows of trees to help block the wind. Fairfield Farms is in the Pauma Valley and is surrounded by mountains.
150 Blueberry Pickers
In high season there will be as many as 150 pickers working in the blueberry fields. Each one has their own ID number. Each ID number is tracking how many blueberries they pick in a day and that dictates their pay. Each ID number is entered into a computer system at the processing plant.
As each worker fills up trays of blueberries, they are stacked on the trailer and driven up to the processing plant. You can see each tray has its own tag with the picker’s ID number on it.
Inside the Processing Plant
These are blueberries fresh off the field that are now ready to be sorted, cleaned, then packed.
Above, the blueberries are being loaded into the cleaning and sorting machine. Each tray, and the person who picked that tray of blueberries, is being tracked with the software you can see to the right. This software was developed by the sons of the family that own the farm.
Above, you can see this extremely sophisticated machine that is taking thousands of images of the blueberries in order to sort the good from the bad.
Now the blueberries will be sent to the hand sorting table for the final inspection before getting packaged.
After the hand sorting is complete, the perfect blueberries will get loaded back onto trays so they can be packaged. Oh, by the way – this plant is 50 degrees so after a few minutes in here you are ready for the sun outside.
In the image below, you can see the trays of blueberries in the foreground ready for packaging.
Now the blueberries will be loaded into the packaging machine:
After packaging, each container is hand packed into their cardboard shipping boxes.
These berries are actually going to Whole Foods Markets. After this palate of blueberry cases is complete, it will be stored in the cooler at 34 degrees until the truck comes to pick it up for delivery.
About Fairfield Farms
Fairfield Farms is completely organic and family owned. They grow blueberries, avocados, and several citrus fruits.
They are located at: 14224 Old Cole Grade, Pauma Valley, CA
Their phone number and email is 760-742-1792 firstname.lastname@example.org
They now have “pick your own blueberries” this year and there is a separate website for that: Fairfield Fruit Co. The season is May 1st, 2014 and will go through June 1st, Thursday through Sunday from 8am to 6pm. I highly suggest it.