Fresno County orchard produces magical produce
By JULIA HOLLISTER
For the Capital Press
REEDLEY, Calif. — Bryce Loewen’s farm, Blossom Bluff Orchards, produces roughly 150 different varieties of organic tree fruit, including stone fruit in the summer, persimmons and pomegranates in the fall and citrus in the winter.
“Around 85 percent of the farm is focused on stone fruit. We have such a large variety count because we direct market all of our fruit to stores, bakeries, restaurants and breweries as well as maintaining a booth at five weekly farmers’ markets,” he said.
“Having a constant and changing flow of different varieties is essential to our model not only because our customers want different things, but also because we strive to harvest our fruit at peak maturity when it’s flavor has achieved its full potential,” Loewen said. Picking at peak ripeness means its storability is considerably less than the industry standard for delicate fruits.
“For this reason we’re under a lot of pressure to turn over inventory as quickly as possible,” he said. “Out with the old, in with the new.”
The Loewens’ 78-acres farm has three full-time and 30 seasonal employees to keep that fruit moving. The farm was founded in 1931 by Daniel and Babette Lichti, Bryce’s great-grandparents of Bryce. Bryce and his wife, Natalie, run the farm with his parents, Ted and Fran, and Bryce’s sister, Renata.
One of the farmers’ markets they sell their fruit at is at the Ferry Plaza in San Francisco, 200 miles away from the Orchards.
“Ted and Fran Loewen and Bryce and Natalie of Blossom Bluff Orchards have been bringing their beautiful Damson and Green Gage plums and other heirloom and hybrid stone fruit varieties to the Ferry Plaza markets since 1994,” said Lulu Meyer, CUESA’s director of market operations.
“It has been amazing to watch their children grow up at the markets and take on more of the farm’s direct marketing opportunities and help to develop value-added products as well.
“They are all such amazing stewards of the land they farm, and each of the Loewens is passionate about continuing their farming traditions.”
“My favorite thing about farming is tied directly to the way that we choose to farm,” he said. “I like producing a clean, quality product that people appreciate, and if we weren’t selling directly I probably wouldn’t get that feedback. I also like choosing to farm in a way that automation is (in many ways) not an option, so we get to employ talented people to put their hands and eyes on the fruit to maintain the level of quality that keeps our customers happy. I like farming organically for a lot of reasons, but above all else I want my kids (Archer’s little brother will be joining us in December) to be free to play in the fields without having to worry about what they might be breathing in or absorbing through their skin.”
Bryce and Natalie Loewen
Owners: Blossom Bluff Orchards, with parents Ted and Fran Loewen and Bryce’s sister, Renata
In business: Since 1931
Location: Fresno County, Calif.