During the past 10 years there has been a resurgence of California garlic shipments. This means production levels not seen in decades.
Christopher Ranch of Gilroy, CA expects to ship about 100 million pounds of garlic this year, the most in years. Harvest got underway in early June.
The company was started in 1956 by Don Christopher with 10 acres of garlic.
Christopher Ranch harvested 5 million pounds of organic garlic in 2017 and expects to harvest 10 million pounds of organic garlic this year, easily the biggest organic crop for the grower/shipper.
For the first time, the company expects to ship 100 percent California organic garlic in 2018-19. It was forced to import some Argentina organic garlic the previous season.
A decline in California garlic started in the late 1990s, when the Chinese started dumping big supplies of garlic in the U.S. market. This forced Christopher Ranch to cut back from 100 to 90 to 80 million pounds and in 2008 volume had plummeted to about 45 million pounds of garlic, a historical low over the last two decades.
Fresh whole garlic represents about 45 percent of the company’s sales, with peeled garlic accounting for 45 percent and roasted garlic in jars accounting for the remainder.
Early garlic shipments start in June and continues for a couple of weeks and these inventories will last for about five months.
Late garlic will begin harvest in July and represents about 80 percent of total garlic volume.
While most of the company’s garlic used to be grown in the Gilroy area, a disease called white rot hit area fields in the 1990s and made it impossible to grow in those fields. Although the company still has about 500 acres in the greater Gilroy area, most of the company’s 5,500 acres are in the Central San Joaquin Valley of near Fresno and Firebaugh, with fields also near Salinas and the northern part of the San Joaquin Valley.
Although new crop harvest started a couple of weeks ago, the firm was still packing 2017 garlic from controlled atmosphere storage until new crop volume begins.
The 40th anniversary Gilroy Garlic Festival will be held July 27-29.