Don’t those peaches look divine? How often do we get ripe peaches right off the tree? Only in the summertime! That is, unless we can find frozen peaches with that “right off the tree” flavor… and now I know where to look for special frozen fruits!
I’ve been traveling this summer! About a month ago, I was invited to participate in a farm tour by California Farm Water Coalition. On the first day of the tour, I met Jackie of The Seaside Baker and Puja of Indiaphile at Lindberg Field in San Diego. We three flew to Fresno on an early morning flight.
Our CFWC hosts Clare Foley and Brandon Souza were waiting for us at the Fresno airport with two other bloggers, Sue of It’s Okay To Eat the Cupcake and Natalie of The Devil Wears Parsley. We loaded our luggage into the back of the SUV, checked the status of the snacks and beverages, and off we went!
Our first stop was Wawona Farms, the largest producer of frozen peaches in the USA. We were greeted by Linda Smittcamp and her son Blake, who told us about the history of his family’s fruit business and gave us an in-depth tour of the processing plant. Peaches from 50-60 growers in the area around Fresno are harvested throughout the fresh peach season and brought to this facility to be washed, cut, sliced, frozen and packed.
Wawona Farms also freezes late season strawberries, has a small bakery for specialty products, and participates in the USDA school lunch programs. If you have ever purchased the Walmart brand of frozen peaches, you may have enjoyed Wawona Farms products. Those delicious organic frozen fruit blends that are sold by Costco and used in smoothies come from Wawona Farms. Marie Callendar’s peach pies are made with Wawona peaches!
We were invited to see every production area, watch the employees as they worked, and we even had a chance to see the brand new quality control laboratory that would be opening soon. I was most impressed that this business had grown from a family farm and packing house for tree fruits beginning in 1945, to a larger frozen fruit operation in 1962, to the multi-faceted business still owned by a multi-generation family today. Employees include people of all ages, notably older adults who have continued to work for many years. This is a business that produces high quality healthy food, supports many families as an employer, participates in fund-raising to help the community, and continues to give back to their community in many ways big and small. Their mission is “to produce fruit products that consistently achieve the product and service expectations of our customers in a cost effective, environmentally responsible manner.”
We asked how the California drought is affecting Wawona Farms. This year the supply of local fruit is lower due to the restrictions on water use. Some area farms have lower production and some will not survive. Wawona already must import some of the fruit that they process. Seeking out new ways to remain profitable, they have partnered with other companies to produce food products using their own facilities, such as cookies, fruit turnovers, and frozen fruit pops. A new product they have introduced is an amazing cookie that tastes like a miniature peach pie called “Peach Jewels”. These are even available in a gluten-free version.
If you happen to visit the Fresno area, be sure to visit The Peach Tree Fruit Stand in Clovis. Established 50 years ago by the original farmer’s wife, the current “farmer’s wife” Linda Smittcamp now runs the stand with the help of local students. Available here are fresh peaches, frozen fruit products, and those amazing Peach Jewels. We had a wonderful time sampling the frozen peach and strawberry pops, selecting fresh peaches, buying cookbooks, and loading up on boxes of Peach Jewels, which are frozen and can be baked at home. We were thrilled to accept tee shirts offered as a gift: “Keep Calm and Eat A Peach!”
I’m still dreaming about those tasty Peach Jewels, and planning another trip to the Fresno area so I can bring home a cooler full! I’m wishing that Costco might carry them…if you ever see Peach Jewels from Wawona Farms at Costco, call me right away!
Coming next on our tour: A visit to Hudson Farms of Del Rey, California.