Some of the year’s best-eating stone fruit come to us from Family Tree Farms in the San Joaquin Valley in California.
Family Trees is also beginning to grow blueberries in Mexico.
David Jackson is a seventh-generation farmer whose children and grandchildren have joined the family trade. Jackson’s grandfather, Herschel, moved to the San Joaquin Valley from Tennessee in the 1930s, eventually saving enough money to own his own farm. Herschel’s farm has remained in the family ever since.
The Jackson family selects and grows special varieties of Pluots® (the hybrid fruit “plumcots,” a cross between plums and apricots) and yellow and white peaches and nectarines – chosen specifically for optimal flavor, sweetness and texture – as well as Brooks cherries. David recognized early on that while most stone fruits are beautiful, many lack flavor. His endeavor to begin selling sweet but delicate nectarines and white flesh peaches was revolutionary and truly allowed Family Tree Farms to set itself apart.
Brooks cherries are an early cherry variety that arrives before the Bing cherries. Cherries are graded and sized in a unit known as a “row,” and the smaller the number, the bigger the fruit. In 2013, the Family Tree Farms Brooks cherries were “9 row” (smaller cherries can be 12 row, and 8.5 row is a big cherry!). Less than 15 percent of the entire cherry crop reaches the size “9 row” or larger. Family Tree Farms also grow flavorful Mandarin Satsuma oranges.
White peaches and nectarines are naturally lower in acid than their yellow counterparts, so although they might not always have a higher sugar level than yellow flesh, the absence of acid makes sweetness the dominant flavor.
They hand-harvest each fruit only when they are fully ripe and pack them carefully to maintain the fruit’s integrity.
Family Tree Farm’s relentless commitment to flavor produces fruit that truly eats as it should. Their focus on sweetness and quality is driven by their vision: “To bring to market the most flavorful fruit in the world.”
The primary farm is located in central California just north of the city of Visalia, which is considered the heart of stone fruit country. Although not certified organic, Family Tree Farms practices “Integrated Pest Management,” meaning they use natural methods to keep pests from the orchards and, if pest elimination becomes necessary, they use the softest product possible and one that only targets the specified pest.
Family Trees is proud of its one-of-a-kind Research and Development Center. An extensive facility, it allows Family Trees to grow and test new varietals and evaluate the flavor of the fruit. They grow, pack, sell and ship their fruit – allowing them to exercise complete control, which is why they’re known for consistent quality. Here’s how they describe their practices:
“Picking riper fruit is just part of the picture. It’s pulling leaves from the tree to allow more sunlight to reach the fruit. It’s pruning and thinning for optimum fruit sizing. It’s sticking fruit into small plastic totes, sometimes even wrapping each piece in protective tissue paper. It’s all of little things we do that all add up to the one big thing that matters – bringing you the most flavorful fruit in the world!”