Stemilt Celebrates 30 Years of Growing Organic Fruits
- by Alexis Schreiber
WENATCHEE, WA - This year marks the 30th year of growing organic apples, pears, cherries, and summer fruit for the tree fruit company Stemilt Growers. While reflecting on the past 30 years, Roger Pepperl, Marketing Director, gives credit to Stemilt’s founding family, the Mathison's, for creating “success in the organic market.”
“Back in 1989, Tom Mathison and Kyle Mathison recognized a distrust between the consumer and the food they were purchasing,” said Pepperl. “Tom not only saw a problem with this but knew it had to be fixed. He realized the power of organics and the market was about to brink onto something big. Stemilt needed to be the first to get on board.”
According to the company’s press release, Tom Mathison wanted to provide answers to questions like where food was grown, how it was grown, and who was growing it, as a means of addressing consumer’s concerns. While making a positive step toward regaining the customer’s trust, he felt that growing organics could help answer these questions. This move in Mathison’s playbook led to Stemilt’s transparency with the customer and built solid trust.
Mathison then began growing organics, laying out the foundation for classic apple varieties, like Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith. Today, Mathison’s grandsons, West and Tate Mathison, have built off their grandfather’s organic foundation and have evolved Stemilt’s organic brand, Artisan Organics™, into a program that grows and delivers high quality, organic varieties that today’s consumer seeks.
“Modern varieties like Honeycrisp, Pink Lady®, Pinata®, Rave®, and SweeTango® are now all available organically, thanks to West (Mathison) and Tate’s (Mathison) innovative mindset,” noted Pepperl. “These varieties are extremely popular conventionally, so we knew they would go far with the organic consumer as well.”
With just a few months remaining in the organic apple season, Stemilt suggests retailers capitalize now to finish the category strong. As stated in the March 2019 retail scan data from Nielsen, organics made up nine percent of total apple volumes sold on average in the U.S., with a $2.19 average retail price per pound. Continuing that momentum into the early summer is ideal, says Pepperl, and retailers can look to organic Fuji and Gala varieties to lead the way, along with smaller sizes of organic Pink Lady® apples.
“Retailers should push for sales these last few months,” says Pepperl. “The fruit has impeccable quality thanks to our field team’s experience, and consumer demand for organics is there.”
For the last 30 years, Stemilt’s field teams have worked hard, gaining first-hand experience with Washington State and organic growing conditions. Washington State has some of the best organic growing climates thanks to the dry, arid conditions. Specifically, Artisan Organics™ summer fruit has great success in the southeastern Washington region due to the desert-like conditions and nutrient-rich soil, as reported in the press release.
“Our all-organic peach and nectarine program is hard to compete with,” expressed Pepperl. “This region’s conditions are unlike any other in the country. The hot temperatures mixed with the cool nights and abundance of fresh water make it the perfect area to grow summer fruit. The climate and our horticulture expertise lead to beautifully colored and extremely juicy peaches, nectarines, and apricots.”
Stemilt is expected to continue its 30-year anniversary celebrations later this year.
Happy organic anniversary to Stemilt from the AndNowUKnow team!