Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between organic and regular strawberries?
One of the main advantages that consumers have when they want to buy an organic product is that there are set guidelines (by the USDA National Organic Program) that have to be followed by the producers in order to be able to sell as organic. This means that there are only certain products that have been tested and approved to be used in organic production.
In the United States, the National Organic Program (NOP) is the federal regulatory framework governing organic food. It is also the name of the organization in the Department of Agriculture (USDA) responsible for administering and enforcing the regulatory framework. The Organic Food Production Act of 1990 (7 U.S.C.A. § 6501-22) required that the USDA develop national standards for organic products. The NOP Final Rule was first published in the Federal Register in 2000 and are in the US Code of Federal Regulations at 7 CFR Part 205.
The USDA has a list of Accredited Certifying Agents that can issue certificates of operation to operations that comply with the USDA organic regulations. These Certifying Agents are the ones that are responsible for inspecting that all the guidelines are being followed.
There are currently 56 U.S. domestic certification agencies accredited by the USDA, including Organic Crop Improvement Association, CCOF, Oregon Tilth, Quality Assurance International (QAI), and Indiana Certified Organic. There are also 41 accredited foreign agencies that offer organic certification services
On the other hand the EPA regulates the use of pesticides by first reviewing studies on the pesticides to determine that they will not pose unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. Before these pesticides can be used on a food commodity, the same EPA in conjunction with other agencies will set limits on the amount of it that can be used when growing or processing the food commodity. There are other limits on how much of these pesticides can remain on the food once it reaches the general public. Government inspectors monitor regularly to ensure that the set limits are not being exceeded.
Any pesticide that remains in or on food or feed is called a residue. Residues that remain in food or feed at harvest or slaughter are monitored to avoid hazards to the humans and domestic animals that will eat them. The Food Quality Protection Act, passed in 1996, establishes a strong, health-based safety standard for pesticide residues in all foods. The food safety standard for pesticide residues in food is a "reasonable certainty of no harm" standard for aggregate exposure using dietary residues and all other reliable exposure information.
Tolerances: EPA establishes maximum residue levels (tolerances) when registering a pesticide. A tolerance is the maximum amount of pesticide residue that may legally remain on or in treated crops and animals (and animal products such as milk or eggs) that are to be sold for food or feed. Tolerances are enforced by the Department of Health and Human Services/Food and Drug Administration for most foods, and by the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Food Safety and Inspection Service for meat, poultry, and some egg products. Surveys of pesticide residues in food typically reveal that the vast majority of samples are well within tolerances.
We want to provide the best possible products (both organic and conventional) to our customers, so we attempt to apply the methodology for growing organic to our conventional "Regular" strawberries. However, there are some differences, and they are only a result of us attempting to stay competitive and keep costs down, thus being able to stay in business to provide the best possible products for our customers.
So what are those differences?
On our organic fields we fallow the land (we let it rest) and thus it naturally replenishes some of the nutrients that were lost during production. We sometimes do need to add "Organic Approved" fertilizers in order to get the best possible berries.
We are a certified operation trough CCOF for the USDA NOP, and you can verify this by going to the AMS USDA NOP website and you can input our name "Rodriguez Farms Inc." under "Operations" and press the 'enter' key, there you can see our company and the products that we grow organically.
Are smaller strawberries sweeter than bigger ones?
We have been asked this question many times, and it is not an easy one to answer. First, the size does not necessarily mean anything.
The main thing to look for is the level of ripeness of the fruit, usually the darker and richer color is a good indication of the sweetness of the fruit. But that also has exceptions. If the weather has been cold and dry, the fruit will not be as dark in color, but it will generally still be sweet.
If the fruit comes from a "first year" plant, it usually will be a little larger. If the fruit comes from a "second year" plant it will be a little smaller in size. So perhaps this is where people are getting the correlation of size and flavor. It is true that generally second year plants provide sweeter fruits than first year plants do.
We are one of the few farms that have the advantage of being able to provide some of our crops to a berry cooperative, and keep the best and highest quality berries for our customers at the various farmers markets we attend.
What is the season for your strawberries?
We are currently growing an ever-bearing variety, which means that our season is "most of the year". As long as we have good weather we will have some delicious berries. Usually we have them from early/mid March to early/mid December.
Why are your strawberries sometimes "crunchy" and sometimes they are "softer"?
It depends on the weather, If the weather is cold and dry, our berries will become a little more "crunchy", generally during the winter months and early spring. When we have sunny and warm days our berries tend to be "softer" which general happens in the summer.
How do I choose the best tasting strawberries?
Generally choose dark red berries. Strawberries are one of the only fruits that don't ripen once they are picked, so you can pick the darkest berries without fear of them having a shorter "shelf-life" than lighter berries.
How long have you had "Certified Organic" strawberries?
We became certified organic on March 19, 2004.
We are certified organic through CCOF and you may find the link to their site in the links section.
Which is sweeter, Organic or Regular strawberries?
Organic strawberries tend to be sweeter. They take a little longer to grow but they have better nutrients and a richer flavor.
How can I store strawberries so they last longer before they go bad?
The best way to store the berries is using a plastic/glass container lined with dry paper towels on the bottom. Put the strawberries in without washing and cover them with more dry paper towels. Don't put a lid on them and store them in the refrigerator. Only wash the berries when you are about to eat them.
The biggest enemy of berries is moisture. During our summer season, following these instructions will make the berries last for a little over a week.
Which markets do you attend and what days?
For an complete list of our markets, check the "market locations" section of our website. Be sure to check either our Facebook or Instagram pages for weekly updates on which markets we will be attending.
Do you sell strawberries at your farm or to the stores, besides bringing them to farmers markets?
Our main business is providing fresh quality berries directly to our customers; however, we occasionally sell to some fruit stands and to a berry cooperative. We do not do direct sales outside of the farmers markets.
What other types of berries do you grow?
We grow raspberries, golden-raspberries, blackberries, and boysenberries.
We are one of the few farms that grow boysenberries! Unfortunately the season for them is very short, so be sure to grab some if you see them at your local farmers' market!
What variety of strawberry do you grow?
We used to grow other varieties of strawberries but lately we have settled on Albion. This is because we found out that it is the best overall fit for all of our needs. The season is long, the flavor is amazing, and when customers take them home they last for a long time.
We also grow a Monterey-specific variety of Sweet Anne berries.
Do you use Methyl-Iodine or Methyl-Bromide in your farm?
We do not use these in our crops.
Where is your farm located?
We are located in California’s Monterey Bay, in Watsonville and Castroville.
How do we know that you really are "Certified Organic"?
We can't just say that we are certified organic, we have to prove it! We are both certified by the county as well as by an independent company called "CCOF" which follows the "USDA" organic guidelines. You can find all related documents in the "Permits and Certifications" section of our website.
Why should I buy your strawberries instead of buying from the stores?
The problem with grocery store berries is that because they are destined for stores, they have to be picked before they are fully ripe so that they can travel well and not go bad before they reach the store.
Strawberries are one of the only fruits that don't ripen after they are picked. Since we sell directly to customers and are local, we are able to let the berries ripen on the plant for a longer duration than the strawberries you find in grocery stores, allowing us to offer much sweeter berries.
When are the berries usually picked?
When markets are during the evening, we are sometimes able to pick the berries the same day. Otherwise, they picked the day before.
The only exception would be if we know it is going to rain hard, we pick the berries a day before so they don’t get rained on and go bad.
Do strawberries freeze well?
Yes they do, but you will be more limited as to how you can use them once you take them out. Frozen strawberries are perfect for milkshakes, smoothies, on top of ice-cream.
Should I refrigerate the berries or leave them on the counter?
It is always better to refrigerate them, if you leave them on the counter they will go bad much faster than if you put them on the refrigerator.
How long do strawberries keep?
With the proper techniques, they keep for approximately a week.
Do you bring a lot of strawberries for multiple markets, or do you have fresh ones for each market?
Generally we only take enough strawberries for a single market. So the berries you get at the market are always the freshest we are able to offer.
Why do you stop coming to the markets for some time?
The season ends during the winter months and we trim our plants, and plant new ones as well. They will not produce for a few months so we do not have any to provide to our customers.
We do not grow any in greenhouses. We believe that the quality is not as good, so we wait until we can provide naturally grown berries with better quality. Also we need the rest so we can begin a new season and continue doing our best every single day of the season.
Is it really better for me to buy organic than regular?
Yes. They take a little longer to grow, but they have better nutrients and better flavor.
Will you attend a market even if it is raining?
Generally if we have berries to sell, then we will be at the market! Be sure to look on our Facebook or Instagram pages for weekly updates on which markets we will be attending. We will be sure to post about any last minute changes!
How many baskets are there on a full flat, half flat?
There are 12 baskets in a full flat, 6 on a half flat.
How much do strawberries weight?
A single basket weights about one pound.
Can I use EBT with you?
At most markets you have to go to the information booth and they give you tokens, which you can then use with us.
Can I use WIC coupons with you?
Yes, we are a certified farmer. We are able to accept the WIC and Senior Farmers Market coupons.
Do you accept Credit/Debit cards?
Unfortunately we are unable to accept Credit or Debit cards.
Do you grow the strawberries in a greenhouse?
No, we prefer to grow them naturally. They are field grown, with plenty of sunshine.
Where are you getting the strawberries this time of year?
We do not "get" (buy) our strawberries. We proudly grow our own berries, thanks in large part to the incredibly fertile land/climate of the Monterey Bay.
Can I pay with a check?
Yes, you can pay with local personal checks.