Today’s Expert: Tanimura & Antle
Welcome to the 2nd edition of our new featured series, titled “Ask the Produce Expert.” In this series, we will feature one of our partner growers and suppliers, and ask them farming industry-related questions that will help us, as consumers, become more educated on the food that we purchase and eat on a daily basis. If you have a question that you want answered by an industry expert – it’s as easy as sending me a tweet or posting it on my Facebook page! I am eager to work your questions into this series!
Tanimura & Antle is part of The Produce Mom’s family of partners, and they are truly experts in field fresh vegetables. The company has been growing and shipping fresh vegetables for over three generations. Tanimura & Antle specializes in lettuce, but has greatly expanded their product line over the years, which now includes artisan romaine, escarole, endive, hydroponic butter, cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, red & green onion, spinach, their famous field fresh wrapped lettuce, and much more!
Tanimura & Antle’s company’s story dates back to the late 1800s when the Tanimura family sailed over the Pacific Ocean and the Antle family emigrated from the Dust Bowl, both eventually settling in California’s Salinas Valley. They have established growing regions throughout California, Arizona, and also Tennessee. T&A is dedicated to sustainable and safe agricultural practices, which translates into incredibly high quality field fresh produce for your dining table.
In this edition of Ask the Produce Expert, Brian Antle will be the featured expert from Tanimura & Antle. Brian will aim to provide you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the process and sustainability of field fresh hand picking and packaging of produce, and give a brief look into his life on the farm.
Please welcome Brian Antle of Tanimura & Antle, and his informative & educational insight on field fresh produce!
Brian Antle is a 4th generation farmer who currently works on the family farm managing crop production at Tanimura & Antle. Brian developed a passion for farming early on in his life. He began working for the family business when he was 14 years old, and went on to graduate from Cal Poly San Luis Obispohis in 2006 with an Agriculture Business degree. His love for dirt continues into his spare time, where he races off road Trophylite trucks through the deserts of Nevada, Arizona and Mexico. Brian met his wife, Amanda, in 5th grade, and they now reside in either Salinas, CA or Yuma, AZ, depending on the growing season.
Here is a 30 second video of Brian praising his harvest laborers!
Now let’s dive in to the questions:
What are field fresh leaf items?
Field fresh leaf items are whole heads of romaine, red leaf, green leaf, escarole and endive that are harvested at the peak of freshness year round, and packaged in a unique bag in the field to increase freshness and insure the consumer a crisp head of lettuce.
The biggest difference a consumer will see is at the grocery store shelf. The naked head is usually old, wilted, and hanging off the shelf due to their short shelf life and not being fresh. The field fresh items present a much more unique presentation and showcase their ability to stay fresh in the bag, as they have a shelf life double that of the naked head.
What is the story behind field fresh leaf items? Why did this packaging start?
We wanted to provide our customers with the freshest possible product, and we felt using the field fresh bag was the best way to achieve that. After testing the shelf life of naked vs. Field Fresh bags, and validating the increases in shelf life, freshness and taste, it was apparent that the switch needed to be made.
Why are innovations like this packaging so important to Tanimura & Antle?
The Tanimura & Antle families have led the way in farming and harvesting technology for 50+ years through the adaption of post harvest vacuum cooling, harvesting equipment, use of drip tape, farming automation, etc. Anyone can do the same thing day after day; however, the families have always challenged employees, and given them the finances and resources necessary to make things better or find the next big thing, such as Field Fresh Packaging.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Being able to work with my family – not just my actual family, but also the extended family of people I have grown up around over the last 30 years. It’s truly humbling to see how dedicated the Tanimura & Antle employees are and it makes me proud to get to work alongside them every day, through thick or thin. With 10% of our 2000+ employees having been with the company for 20+ years, I can truly say I have grown up around them, and they have helped raise me and teach me the business along the way.
What is your favorite memory growing up in the produce industry?
Hands down, Saturday mornings. That meant dad was taking us to the office and the fields, which were a giant playground full of big toys for my younger brother Jeff and I. As soon as we could reach the pedals, my dad would let us drive his truck on the ranch while he directed us where to go and what not to hit. Although our conversations have now become more business oriented as we drive around the ranches I still enjoy going to the fields with my dad any chance that I get.
What is the biggest challenge facing the produce industry?
Water and labor. Many people outside the agricultural world don’t realize you need a lot of both water and labor to make vegetables, and both are disappearing. We are already beginning to see the effects of these problems as the once thriving San Joaquin valley is now a dust bowl, and some fields are being left unharvested due to lack of labor. We are starting to see industry wide production numbers decrease as a result of these problems, and will continue to decline if nothing is done.
If you could tell consumers one thing about farming and growing fresh produce, what would it be?
I would tell them to respect and give thanks to the thousands of people on the ranches across the industry who have a behind the scenes job that is often times taken for granted by the consumer. The people who are in the field from sun up to sun down in the heat, cold, rain and mud to provide the safe, clean and fresh food you eat. It’s easy to forget about the people farming and harvesting your vegetables but they are truly the backbone of our industry and there is no way to provide the quality and quantity of fresh vegetables without them.
Thank you Brian Antle for sharing your knowledge & being part of The Produce Mom Family!
I learned so much… I cannot wait for our next “Ask the Produce Expert” blog! What questions do YOU want answered?
#FreshProduce rules – thank you for serving fruits & veggies to your family!!!
xoxo Produce Mom
*Below is a printable and/or savable version of the beautiful lettuce infographic. Enjoy!*