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Everything’s Coming Up Carrots! Down on the Organic Carrot Farm

Sharon Palmer

I was really excited to visit Grimmway Farms in Bakersfield, California, home of the largest grower of fresh carrots in the world.  Grimmway Farms supplies both conventional and organic carrots.  I didn’t realize that Bakersfield—a few hours from my home—is called the “carrot capital” of the world.  But this part of California is perfectly situated to grow these sweet orange roots, and it supplies carrots to 20 countries around the world.  Grimmway Farms started with the Grimm brothers, who set up their first roadside produce stand in San Juan Capistrano in 1968.  Today, the family has grown their business to include other companies, such as Cal-Organic (one of my favorite organic produce companies!), but they are most widely known for their carrots, especially baby carrots.  You might say that Grimmways put baby carrots on the map.

This is how carrots are harvested in California

On this farm trip, I learned so much about carrots!  Grimmway is growing carrots all over California, to take advantage of the unique microclimates and growing seasons all over the state.  For example, they can grow carrots February-March in the Coachella Valley, where it’s too hot to grow carrots in the summertime.  That’s why they can grow carrots year long—and why you can find them in the supermarket every day of the year.

Harvesting carrots, which pulls them up from their orange roots.

Carrots are really sensitive to the soil and pests—you can only plant a field with carrots once every 4 – 5 years.  The fields are rotated for another plant crop during the off years.  The carrots are planted from seed, and they most be pollinated by bees—two rows for male carrots and four rows for female carrots.  When the lacy green tops come up, the field is beautiful, against the crystal blue sky and rolling mountains of California’s central valleys.  I didn’t realize that carrots were in the same family as Queen Anne’s Lace, but you can see the resemblance when a carrot plant goes to flower and the white frilly blossoms pop up.

The carrots are separated from the leafy greens by the harvester.

Grimmway Farms created their own carrot harvesters to meet their needs.  They plant rows of carrots—they are just crammed together—and then the harvester comes along and grabs the carrots by the tops, removes the tops which are deposited back into the field for nutrients, and shoots the trimmed carrots into large bins.

Once the carrots are harvested, they make it to nearby processing plants.  I had the opportunity to see the sea of orange as the carrots were washed, sorted, trimmed, and packaged—a very clean, efficient process.

In the carrot field with the farmer.

Here’s something that I learned:  I always heard that baby carrots were big carrots whittled down to nothing, so they result in a lot of waste.  That’s one urban legend I can now put to rest!  Baby carrots are actually produced from a variety of carrots that grows long, thin carrots.  Then they are simply cut into 2-inch sections.  Every part of the carrot is used—nothing goes to waste.  If a carrot cannot be used in the whole carrot (cello) bags or baby carrot sections, then they can go on to shredded carrots, carrot “chips” (crinkle slices), or even carrot juice.

I’m a big fan of carrots, for their plant-powered nutrition lineup.  1 medium carrot (72 grams) contains:
• 2 g fiber
• .14 mg zinc
• .102 mg manganese
• .034 mg copper
• .36 mg iron
• 233 mg potassium
• .7 g protein
• 19 mg calcium
• 32 mg phosphorus
• 11 mg magnesium
• 20253 IU vitamin A
• 7 mg vitamin C
• 10 mg folic acid
All for only 31 calories!

One of the best recipes I tried on the trip was a scrumptious carrot cake oatmeal, so I came home and created my own plant-based version of this recipe here.

For some of my favorite carrot recipes, check out the following:

Zucchini Carrot Spice Muffins
Turmeric Mango Carrot Smoothie
Snow Pea Carrot Salad with Mint Green Tea Vinaigrette
Thai Carrot Mint Salad

For more inspiration, check out my Top 5 Ways to Use Carrots

This post is not sponsored. These are my own observations following this farm tour.

Written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN on September 29, 2013; Updated on September 16, 2019.

Main image:   In the carrot field in Bakersfield

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