From Arizona Grown to Mexico Grown
The Arizona citrus industry predates statehood by decades. The sun and soil here are ideal for growing oranges, lemons and grapefruit. Citrus, in fact, is one of the state’s iconic 5 Cs: Citrus, Cotton, Climate, Cattle and Copper. The industry, however, has been under threat from encroaching urban development and a tiny pest called the Asian Citrus Psyllid that can spread a greening disease that kills citrus trees. Strict phytosanitary laws have been implemented that prohibit non-fumigated citrus from being imported into the state.
Early on, Patagonia Orchards saw an opportunity to save many small citrus farms because they knew they could build a local market for Arizona organic citrus. In 1993, they established Arizona’s first organic citrus packing shed in Phoenix. By educating growers about the logistics of organic farming practices, providing them with specialists in organic production, training farmers in the protocols of organic certification and food safety, and by developing state and national distribution programs for Arizona grown organic citrus, Patagonia Orchards has successfully fostered a vibrant organic citrus industry in Arizona.
The success of the Arizona organic citrus program laid the foundation for what would become the company’s major product category and, in 1993, Patagonia Orchards became the first U.S. company to import organic limes from Mexico. In 1995, we imported the first certified organic Valencia oranges from Mexico and in 2001, we imported, packed, and distributed the first certified organic lemons from Mexico. Today the company boasts a year round organic lime program and Patagonia Orchards complements its domestic Arizona organic citrus program by importing 10 million pounds of citrus from Mexico. Organic citrus now makes up roughly 80% of our production.
The growth in the citrus category has encouraged the company to integrate vertically by adding a fresh juice component and launch Patagonia Organic Beverages. As the first approved juicing facility in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, “The Juicery” creates a product line of cold pressed, tree-ripened organic limeades and lemonades. This unique addition to the fresh juice category is UV pasteurized and has no added sugar. Non-stop innovative thinking propels the company to strive to be industry leaders in Arizona organics.