From ranching cattle on its sprawling hills to the familiar hum of the tomato cannery in the summer, citizens of San Benito County are no strangers to the farming industry. However, a recent crop addition has taken the community by storm: carrots.
County Agricultural Commissioner Ronald Ross said that carrots make up a big portion of the crops grown in the area, noting that approximately 30 tons of carrots are harvested per ace. Ross also noted that this summer marks the fourth year of carrot production in the county.
Tonascia Farms, Sabor Farms, and Franscioni Farms produce these carrots, both organically and conventionally for a leading agricultural company, Bolthouse Farms.
As stated on Bolthouse’s website, “our operations are designed to make use of the entire carrot.”
Local growers use their carrots for both as a cash crop and a rotation crop. Owner of Tonascia Farms, Joe Tonascia, explained that he uses his carrots to clean up the weeds and restore the ground. However, he also explained that his carrot production doubles as a smaller cash crop because, “it takes money to yield.”
Each grower uses their crop for both cash and rotation, however, their specific combination of the two vary.
Bolthouse Farms customer representative Cliff Kirkpatrick explained why local carrot farming is such a success: “Carrot growth and harvest has a lot to do with the carrot top. If carrots are not grown in the proper soil, the tops won’t be strong enough to withstand being pulled on to remove the carrot from the ground,” he said.
Kirkpatrick continued, “The soil types within San Benito County don’t have the disease pressure found in the Salinas Valley, which makes this such a successful area for carrot production.”
Carrot production has become such a success in the area that it has grown from 250 acres to 700 acres, with expected growth annually. Kirkpatrick explained that within the carrot business, organic carrots are where most of the industry growth lies.
Once the carrots have been harvested, carriers are needed to move the carrots to the Bolthouse Farms facility in Bakersfield. Agricultural trucking companies Trans Valley Transport and Steven’s Transport work year round hauling carrots for Bolthouse Farms starting in the winter months through late spring from Arizona and the Imperial Valley. Then, the trucking companies follow the harvest into the San Joaquin Valley, Salinas Valley and San Benito County from the late spring through late fall.
President of Trans Valley Transport, Eric Triolo, said, “Carrots are a huge crop we haul on a year round basis. TVT enjoys working with Bolthouse because of not only the professionalism, but also the close relationship we have established. We have a very open dialogue of communication. Bolthouse is much more than a client, they are a key partnership that benefits both of our businesses.”
Editor’s Note: Eric Triolo is writer Alexandra Triolo’s father. We included his perspective in the story because we feel it adds value and insight to the article.