I like just about every kind of fruit there is. (Sorry, eggplant.) And I live in a place that will grow just about anything. So experimentation is a natural part of our business.
Ten trees of this. Ten trees of that. Twenty of something else out in Santa Paula.
Of course, all these trees add up to some acreage after a while. They produce far too much for my family can consume alone, yet not enough for the Farmer’s Market, let alone larger channels. There are still more trees and more varieties that I want to add, but where will the fruit go? Better yet, how can I pay the bills?
Fortunately, this volume of fruit is very well suited to the needs of my chef and caterer clients. I get to experiment, knowing that I will not end up with non-earning acreage, and they get to offer unique, seasonal (and very fresh) specials. Everybody wins, everybody smiles.
Chefs make a great focus group. That’s the secret added benefit. They know what they like, appreciate the difference between varieties, and watch for what their customers respond to. This feedback often gives me new varieties to try.
Of course, the end goal of experimentation is not more experimentation. It’s information. Every tree is a thirty year bet on future food preferences. I like variety, but I’m really looking for the one or two crops that set us up for the next generation. So do I believe in the idealistic notions of fresh and local food? You bet. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be good for business.