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“The plants will grow back”

Driving an hour north of Tecoman, the heart of Mexico’s export organic production, you are awe-struck by the mighty Colima Volcano, which is very active with frequent eruptions.  Equally amazing is how high the Sierra Madre Mountains are from Colima north for 100 miles – soaring up to 12,000 feet high.  With a bizarre twist of fate, Hurricane Patricia took a sharp right turn as it made landfall, missing Manzanillo, and then a nearly immediate left, missing Puerto Vallarta, and right smack dab into this high mountain range.  Those mountains shredded Patricia quickly, and the storm shrunk as quickly as it grew – the largest storm ever measured in history, went from a tropical storm to a monster Category 5 in 36 hours, and was back to tropical storm status just as quickly.  This is not to say that it was not a significant storm, and had devastating impact, but there have been only a handful of storm-related deaths.





HOT SHOTS – OCT. 26th, 2015

Dear Ones, 
I woke up early this morning to write the Hot Shots because there just wasn’t enough time yesterday.  I got out of bed very carefully and quietly because my friend Tess is staying with me and she was still sleeping.  She’s a farmer from Armstrong who came to the city to drop off a whack of chickens.  The staff at Discovery purchased a motherlode of hens from her because they’re the yummiest, fattiest little organic birds around.  





In the last 12 hours, Hurricane Patricia has intensified to become the strongest hurricane ever recorded in history in either the Atlantic Basin, or the Eastern Pacific (being the Pacific Ocean on our side of the International Date Line.)


4:00 PM UPDATE.  With constant winds of 200 mph (360 kmh), Patricia has just become not only the largest, but also the fastest growing storm ever recorded on the entire planet.   The storm changed course and landfall just happened 30km north of Manzanillo and 80km north of Tecoman, the banana growing region and home to Coliman and Organics Unlimited, with winds of 180kmh.

Stunning, Historic, Mind-Blogging, and Catastrophic – these are the words being used by forecasters around the world.

Winds are gusting at nearly 400 kmh (over 250mph).  This is the combined impact of El Nino, but more-so, ocean temperatures 4C degrees above normal – a direct impact of global warming.  The hurricane is currently aimed south of Puerto Vallarta and Nayarit and will be catastrophic.  It will also impact Arizona, Nevada and Texas next week with rainfall of up to 2 feet expected in Texas, and double that in Mexico.   10 million people in Texas alone are under flash flood warnings and alerts.  Another storm event not related to Patricia has already dumped copious rain on Texas with up to a 450cm (12-16”) expected to fall by Monday, even before Patricia’s remnants pull copious amounts of moisture inland to that region mid-week.

Normally, hurricanes have a small “wind field” of 150km on either side of the central core.  However, because of the massive size, that area of hurricane strength winds is now going to cover over 1000km. of Mexico’s West Coast.

Impacts?  Two feet of rain or more falling in 36 hours will create swollen rivers, road wash-outs, mudslides and catastrophic flooding – and as much as Mexican authorities have been pro-active, there was no indication that this storm would intensify from a mere tropical storm to the largest hurricane ever recorded in just 48 hours.  Damage will be unbelievable – 245 mph winds will not leave many buildings standing along the coast.  In many areas we have visited a majority of homes have palapa (palm leaf) or tin roofs.  You can imagine how that’s going to look.

How will this affect growers?  Because of the expected landfall point, the biggest tragedy will likely be the banana growing areas in Colima.  Although storms are not unusual there, we can only hope that the damage to these plantations, as well as the hundreds and hundreds of hectares of lime plantations is not catastrophic.  Bananas are the only major export crop in that area.  To the north, most agricultural production is for local food supply.  The area of southern Nayarit that is a major mango production area is at or below sea level.  (Many roads are closed at high tide many miles inland.)  That entire area could have 10 feet of water covering it from rainfall, dam over-flow and storm surges at high tide.

Farther south, one of our biggest worries is for Las Palomas grapefruit and mango growers, part of the Pragor group, who are right on the coast line, and in the hurricane warning area, although well south of the expected landfall point.  But 120km an hour winds are going to shake a lot of fruit loose and potentially cause severe flooding.  Farther up the hill – an hour’s drive inland is one of Mexico’s largest mango growing areas – these are all on hillsides as you climb up the Sierra’s inland.  Strong winds and flash flooding will also have their impact.  Just another 1 hour drive inland to the east is Uruapan, the largest avocado production area in the world.  Growers there are bracing for the worst, having seen 75cm of rain yesterday, and expectations of a further 250-400cm of rain in the next 48 hours.  That being said, one-day rain events during the winter thunderstorm season can often produce 100cm+ in just a few hours, so our expectation is that unless there is hail damage, the crop shouldn’t be impacted because the weather is already so extreme there, although mudslides and road washouts could affect transportation for some time.

Heavy rain has been falling for 24 hours across vast stretches of central Mexico already, and growing areas inland as far as Guadalajara will be impacted.

5:00 pm UPDATE – , hurricane wind warnings have now been posted for Guadalajara (pop. 5.8 million), and areas farther inland than in previous forecasts, with public warnings going out to expect winds gusting to 160km an hour.

Unfortunately, if you draw a line from the expected landfall point to Guadalajara, the new extended storm path, that line goes right through Zamora.  Zamora is a small valley with a unique micro-climate and is the new production capital for strawberries and raspberries – all of which are grown under plastic hoop houses – none of which can withstand a gale force wind, much less hurricane force gusts.  The area is fairly protected on most sides by hilly terrain, but not in the direction this storm will hit from.  If Patricia stays on course, we can expect substantial infrastructure devastation there as well.

This is going to be a massive and catastrophic storm, and our hearts and thoughts are with everyone in those regions, and especially with so many people in those areas we have visited and know so well.

Expect citrus prices to rise very quickly – as if they weren’t already high!  The Texas season is expected to start over the next 3 weeks, and although we don’t see much Texas citrus, the crop will be affected by this intense rain.  Yesterday, Florida announced that production will be down 52% below average this year – a direct effect of un-stoppable citrus re-greening disease.  The combination of the on-going California drought, Texas rain and Florida’s loss of 100,000 acres of production will put substantial pressure on pricing for the entire season.

We will keep you updated on reports from producers as they come in, and watch any channel you want on the news that will be reporting this event over the weekend for updates.

Further reading:

Hurricane Patricia Is Historically Unprecedented – And May Be Connected To El Niño



Dear Ones,

Last Monday, I took my brother to vote for the first time in his life.  I had to go with him because I was his proof of address and while we were in line a young man of about 20 standing in front of us said, “are you here to vote?”  We were drenched head to toe from the Thanksgiving monsoon outdoors, looking like wet rats with rough day jobs and terrible taste in clothes and we were standing in a line at a polling station run by elections Canada, and so we said, “yes, we are here to vote.”

The kid was stoked!  He said it was his first time voting and it was Jasper’s first time voting and both of them were there, on a holiday, had come in through the rain to vote early, and to have their say counted.  What a beautiful thing.






Local roots are strong!

Well, we didn’t expect a late truck this week because of mudslides and road closures on the ONLY highway north out of Los Angeles!  There’s some great video’s out there of cars being washed down the “Grapevine” as that section of the highway is called as it passes through the Coast range.  El Nino predictions are that southern California can expect much higher rainfall than normal for the next 6 months.  This is going to help the drought situation because reservoirs will fill up and the groundwater aquifers will also re-charge well.  But if it is also warm while it’s wet, there won’t be a big snowpack in the Sierra’s, and that is the water that most farmers rely on.  We will just keep our fingers crossed.


Here’s your update for the week:

A complete plethora of apples, and the first pack of Pink Lady is on its way.  Thanks for putting up with our continuing shortage of smaller sized avocados the last 2 months.  Good news – the next order arriving at the end of next week has a much more even sizing array with good volume on 18/20/22’s.  We will also expect a slight price decrease with a slightly stronger Canadian dollar, and prices dropping off a bit in Michoacan.  BC Grapes are done, and although there are a few listings, there is no volume behind those lines – expect they will not be around this time next week.  California will be good for another 5-6 weeks, although expecting to end 2 weeks earlier than normal – and if there is substantial rain in the southern Central Valley, that could also shorten the season and they will be left on the vine to slowly shrivel to raisins.

Lemon pricing is coming off quickly with the new crop coming off the trees, and projections of an actual increase in production over last year from several growers.  Lemons just wait and wait for cooler weather to turn colour, and if picked green and gassed to turn yellow, they go back to green fairly quickly – besides who wants fruit that isn’t really ready.  California mango season is finishing off, and we will be out early in the week.  Now we will wait for Ecuador, and that will be a long wait with harvest delayed two weeks – take your mango signs down for at least 6 week.  We could fill in with Brazilian fruit in the meantime, but the distance between production areas and sea container terminals, and a long time on the ocean make this nearly impossible – especially with so little organic available.

Yes, melon season is over with local and California finished.  Now we wait for coastal Sonora – the first brands will likely be Llano – one of only 7 or 8 organic growers in Mexico who are licensed to sell cantaloupe into the US or Canada.  Then the market will open up with production from the Sonora desert – Heaven’s Best and Rico, and then Del Cabo in Baja.  Why the restriction on cantaloupe you ask? Well, it’s ancient history and goes back 15 years or so to a salmonella issue.  Only the larger growers who have full time testing labs on site grow melons for export, and it’s not chicken poop that creates the problem with melons – it’s salmonella on the actual seed, before it’s planted – which is why the seeds are tested before they go into start trays – there you just learned something!

Navel pricing is still high, with most of our suppliers looking at green fruit and waiting for colour instead of gassing them orange – which is common at the beginning of the season.  Homegrown, our traditional primary supplier has sent us a crop forecast that shows they will have 20% more oranges across the board than last year – partially due to more growers joining the company (which is a grower-owned marketing body.)  Expect a much different story on Navels in 2-3 weeks when the main crops start to come on.   California Valencia are virtually non-existent – most growers have stopped shipping.  The big change will be in early November when the first Mexican Valencia’s start – the first variety being Desert Sweets from the Citricos Coop in Hermosillo.  A couple of specials on pears for you as we transition from BC to Washington.  Most of our growers are done with all but specialty varieties.  Washington has a much bigger crop and enough volume to have CA storage on storage varieties like D’Anjou and Bosc.

Switching to veg – no major changes – BC is winding down ever so slowly, and production is still strong on many items.  On hot weather crops like beans, zukes, cukes, tomato etc. there is some availability, but also not a lot of strength behind some of those numbers – we know you’d rather go local, but that isn’t going to happen some of the time with lean volume coming in.

Our lazy dog days of summer continue for Fraser Valley farms, with highs this week in the low 20’s, production just keeps on going and is allowing us to miss the ugly transition on California crops – where production will be moving from Salinas to the desert, and there will be gaps in-between because of late wet dates (industry code for first time seeds get watered in the field or in starter trays) in the Imperial and Yuma areas.

Local roots are strong – probably our biggest selection ever on all roots from a multitude of farms.