A successful program must be pervasive throughout the entire company. For this reason, each package of Deardorff Family Farms produce contains our mission – Sustainable Farming for a Healthier Life! In this way, all of our employees, suppliers, and customers know that our commitment to sustainability is the centerpiece of who were are and what we do.
Deardorff Family Farms has been family-owned and operated for four generations. The business started in 1937 along the California coast, where we continue to benefit from the regions amazing climate, water, land, and human resources. The Deardorff family’s commitment to sustainability is not new; it is an always-evolving promise handed down from each generation as a way to honor these natural resources and protect them for the future generations.
The Sustainability Program at Deardorff Family Farms is built on a commitment to engage in business practices that balance economic, environmental, and social outcomes. This involves the implementation of business and farming practices that conserve natural resources and energy, protect the environment, and enhance relationships with employees and local communities. This also involves marketing and business management solutions that will ensure the long-term success of the family business.
Organic farming is a process that relies on natural farming methods, uses limited additives, and no synthetic product. In order to use the “organic” designation and affix the USDA Organic Seal on our packaging, the produce must comply with strict USDA guidelines. We are audited by Quality Assurance International (QAI) to verify that our practices and all aspects of our organic program meets all the requirements of the USDA organic program. Some elements of the program include:
No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides or fumigants can be used on the property for 3 years prior to harvest.
No synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides or fumigants can be used on the “organic” crop being harvested.
Buffer zones must be established to ensure no chemical exposure from adjacent fields or adjacent products in transport or storage.
Only specific inputs can be used and detailed records must be kept of all activities employed in the farming organics.
All persons, equipment, packaging and other things coming into contact with the organic produce must be cleaned and/or shielded from the organic produce to avoid chemical exposure.
Our organic program continues to grow as we tranisition to more land and resources that we can bring into compliance with USDA standards. It is one of many ways we continue to meet our commitment to sustainable farming.
Our farming operation is grounded in a four generation long commitment to sustainability. We call it – Sustainable Farming for a Healthier Life! What this means is that we grow the freshest, healthiest food while preserving natural resources and helping build stronger communities.
Environmental stewardship has been a core focus of Deardorff Family Farms since the start. Healthy soil, clean air, and a steady supply of good water are critical to our farming business. We are committed to the responsible use and protection of these natural resources through conservation and sustainable practices. We also have transitioned a large portion of our farm ground to organic production – just one more way to help engage in sustainable farming.
Organic celery harvest
Soil fertility is a fundamental requirement for good farming. This starts with finding deep, well drained soils with profiles that match the crops to be grown. We are fortunate to have located some of the finest soils in the world. From this base, we use technology to help identify nutrients in the soil and then implement multi-year plans to manage our soil fertility. Our programs include using micro-organisms, organic matter, cover crops, crop rotations, and various natural soil amendments to build soil structure and fertility. Building our soil fertility with these multi-year plans allows us to greatly reduce the amount of additives we have to introduce for each crop.
Barley and beans are used as cover crops in between the plantings. These help enrich and protect the soil.
Water has gained a huge part of the public’s attention in recent years. But for us, it has always had our attention. We cannot farm without good, clean water. Over the years, we have adopted the newest technologies to reduce water use (like drip irrigation) and installed solid infrastructure (like high quality pipelines) to ensure no water is wasted in delivery. Now, we are using state-of-the-art Hortau weather stations and soil moisture monitors to relay data to computer based modeling software programs that transmit real time data to handheld devices in the field. This gives the irrigation team the most accurate, up to date information and, thereby, allows them to maximize the efficient use of water. Recently, our Organic Production Manager Richard Martinez talked to Forbes Magazine about our use of technology in the fields. “This system is a better decision tool for us; we can regulate accordingly to any changes in climate. Whether it’s overcast for a week straight or sunny skies for days, we can more accurately adjust water output. In this industry, especially during the drought, as technologies develop the more efficient we will become and the more we will conserve.”
"In this industry, especially during the drought, as technologies develop, the more efficient we will become and the more we will conserve.”
-Richard Martinez, Deardorff Organic Production Manager
Weeds are a big problem for a farmer. They compete with crops for nutrients and water and are also a host for unwanted bugs and diseases. So, it makes sense to eradicate them as efficiently as possible. Traditionally this is done with herbicides. But we have implemented a system of weed burning which allows us to reduce and, in some cases eliminate, herbicide use. The process involves connecting a flame throwing device onto a tractor and then driving the tractor into the field to burn the weeds. We also lay recycled plastic tarps over the soil beds to help block the weed’s growth, as well as to reduce water evaporation. These are just a few more examples of how we strive to be more sustainable.
Watch the weed burning process!
The black plastic helps prevent the growth of weeds, and it helps keeps the moisture in the soil. This plastic is recycled after each use.
Watch what we're doing to conserve water in our fields
Bugs can also be a problem for a farmer. They can cause direct crop damage by feeding on and also introducing disease to the plants. The traditional control method is pesticides. However, we have found that some bugs are good bugs and we have been able to reduce pesticide use by introducing beneficial insects into our fields. This involves purchasing and then releasing the beneficial insects so they can attack the bad bugs. These beneficial bugs include ladybugs, lacewings, and wasps. We also use host plants like cilantro and alyssum to attract the good bugs, trap crops to get the unwanted bugs, and crop rotations to prevent certain populations of “bad bugs” accumulating. We also have a problem with birds in our fields, who love to enjoy the fresh leaves of our crops. We use a variety of methods to keep them out, including scarecrows and various automated noisemakers that work to scare the birds away. These are all steps in our integrated pest management system that reduce and/or eliminate pesticide use.
Watch to learn more about our pest management program
We are very mindful of our air quality. Our company started in the Los Angeles basin in 1937 and we saw firsthand how air pollution took over that area for decades. We are constantly upgrading booster pump motors to the highest tier engines and use both hybrid and diesel trucks to reduce air emissions. We also use low till and no till practices to help reduce dust and emissions from our operations.
Once produce is fully-grown, it is ready to be harvested, packaged and prepared for shipment. These various activities are often referred to as packing in the industry. Most farmers do not engage in packing, but rather contract out for these services with third party companies who take over after the farming is done. At Deardorff Family Farms, we are a fully integrated operation that grows, packs, and ships all our own product. In that way, we control all aspects from seed to finished product.
The primary role of packaging is to maintain the quality and safety of the product from harvest until end use. We ensure the packaging we use meets strict standards to achieve these goals. In addition, we support the elimination of excess packaging wherever possible.
One example is the use of Returnable Plastic Containers (RPC) that are used to take bulk produce to retail and food service customers. The containers allow us to eliminate cardboard and waxed cardboard boxes in favor of re-usable containers.
Another example is the use of EPI products, used in the plastic bags that we pack product in for for various retail customers. EPI plastics contain certain components that enables the products to degrade and, in most cases biodegrade, into environmentally friendly products when discarded. This high-tech solution is a great example of sustainability because it meets our business demands and achieves environmental benefits at the same time.
Some of the packing activities take place in the fields (harvesting and packing) and others take place at a facility (quality control, further packing, and cooling). In 2012, we finished construction of a state-of-the-art packing and cooling facility in Oxnard, California. Our new home enables us to better meet our commitment to providing the freshest, best tasting fruits and vegetables. The facility meets the highest food safety standards (GFSI) and the highest environmental standards (LEED).
LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and is a rating system for green buildings. LEED certification provides independent verification of a building’s green features, allowing for the design, construction, operations and maintenance of resource-efficient, high-performing, healthy buildings. We achieved a Gold rating under the LEED system for our facility due in part to:
Building on an in-fill location where we recycled 100% of the prior dilapidated factory into our facility.
Installing a bioswale that captures 90% of the stormwater.
70% of the exterior surfaces, paints and colors contribute to reducing heat island effects of regular development.
Achieving over 50% reduction in water use compared to the baseline analysis for the project.
Recycling over 14,000,000 pounds during construction and 39% of building content comes from recycled materials.
Using low emitting materials to limit VOCs and installed fresh air circulation systems throughout the building.
Installing a solar system on the roof that produces over 600,000 kWh and results in 24,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide reduction (equivalent to planting over 275,000 trees).
Achieving over 50% reduction in energy use with high technology components and monitoring systems that maximize efficiency.
Read more about the aspects of our LEED-Certified Building below.
virtual facility tour
We are blessed by having the best employees in the business-some of which have been with us 10,20,30 and even 40+ years. We provide health care, scholarship opportunities and a host of other benefits. We offer individuals a true opportunity to excel, experience true professional growth to support their personal and professional goals. Employee benefits are an essential part of our business and we ensure that they are focused on maximizing employee's quality of life, goals and future.
There are over 300 employees at Deardorff Family Farms during our peak seasons.
Company sponsored health care for all workers.
A safe, clean, efficient and socially responsible work environment for all employees
Company sponsored scholarship programs for children of employees.
Company sponsored health fairs for all workers
Contributions to the Farm Work Faire hosted by the Employee Development Department
Dedicated funding for the Destino Hispanic Legacy Fund – a scholarship fund for children of local farmworkers.
deardorff family farms scholarships
Our Deardorff Family Farms scholarship began in 1995 at our San Clemente Ranch in San Clemente, California, with the idea of helping the children of our employees achieve their educational goals of attending a two or four year college right out of high school and earning their degree. Since then, we have awarded scholarships to 20 recipients and are proud of each of them for pursuing a higher education and continuing to expand their skills and knowledge.
A few of our recipients are highlighted below. We want to recognize these individuals for their pursuance in fields that promote education, health, community, and giving back to others-ultimately resulting in the growth and successes of our future societies.
Claudia graduated from Fillmore High School in 2015 and will be starting at Cal Lutheran University in Fall of 2015, pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Studies. Her goal after graduation is to pursue a career in education and work with elementary school students, as well as earn her Masters Degree and continue working with student education. She is actively involved in her community as well as her high school from tutoring to being president of MEChA club, which helped her realize that she wanted to pursue a future in education.
"Pursue a higher education whether it's starting from a community college or going straight to a four -year university. Find a place that will enable you to flourish as a person and help you expand your capabilities."
Maricela graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a BA in Liberal Studies in 2008 and earned her Elementary Teaching Credential in 2011.
She began her career at the Ocean View School District in Oxnard, as a bilingual kindergarten teacher. Currently, Maricela is working for the Ventura Unified School District as a two-way language immersion 5th grade teacher. Her future goals include starting the Master’s program next year in administration with the hopes of becoming a principal.
"I want to advise every single high school student to continue with their education…even though it seems like a lot, at the end it’s very rewarding."
Candice graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University in 2015 with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Shortly after graduating, she began working at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego as a Registered Nurse, working with children ages 6 months to 18 years in the surgical unit. She hopes to continue her education and become a Nurse Practioner.
"I encourage all high school students to aim high and make it a goal to attend college...have an open mind about everything and really consider what the school offers for what you want to do. Working with kids has been very rewarding and getting to do the thing that I love has been pretty amazing. "
Carlos graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and English (Creative Writing), with a minor in Psychology from the University of Southern California. He graduated with a Master’s degree in Public Health, Community Health Sciences in 2009 from UCLA. Currently, Carlos is a Certified Health Education Specialist at Kern Health Systems in Bakersfield, CA. His future goals include working to further promote a culture of health and innovation at the workplace, connecting with local groups to familiarize managed care health plan services more towards prevention, and investment in community health building, environmental change, and technological innovation.
He is actively involved in a number of community service, social, and professional networking activities and organizations like Children First Campaign, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, and more.
Our mission- Sustainable Farming for a Healthier Life! – embodies our commitment to support community health. In fact, health is the foundation of what we do. We are passionate about farming because the result of our work is the most nutritious and fresh products available to consumers. This passion also leads us to support the health of our employees and the broader communities in which we live. Our primary focus is on education, providing better access to nutritious food, and the well-being of farm workers.
Here are some of the programs we routinely work with:
Western Growers Foundation to place schools gardens in elementary schools across California and Arizona. This support of school gardens has also led to more direct relationships with particular schools in our area.
United Fresh Foundation in connection with the Let’s Move Campaign to place salad bars in schools across the country. This support has led to participation in the Tour De Fresh and other efforts to raise awareness and funds to promote childhood nutrition and provide kids better access to healthy food.
Fruits & Veggies-More Matters campaign and similar programs to promote health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption.
Routine donations of food, materials, and funding for our local and state-wide Food Banks.
A dedicated pledge of 1% to local children’s charities on all sales of our Fresh Picks direct to consumer organic produce program.
Seed funding to launch the Ventura County Agricultural Museum, which now provides an excellent resource to educate children (and the larger community) about agriculture.
In addition, we constantly strive to strengthen relationships with the community by participating in outreach programs to educate the general public about the importance of agriculture and healthy eating. This includes working locally with SEEAG (Students for Eco Education and Agriculture), Ventura County Agricultural Association, and Ventura County Farm Bureau.
Love Local School Gardens!
'Tour De Fresh' 2014
Harrington School Garden, Oxnard CA