Cultivating more than 250 crops, the San Joaquin Valley is the most productive agricultural region in the world. The Valley produces one-third of the entire country’s agricultural production and the area is considered some of the most important farmland in the world. These products include grapes, citrus, peaches, and nuts.
The frozen fruit market is a growing business due to the rise in demand for frozen fruit and the rise in disposable income. Consumers like having frozen produce in their freezer for use at any time. Freezing produce is a great way to preserve the fruit or vegetable’s nutritional value. Once harvested, freezing produce immediately will ensure that it doesn’t undergo chemical changes that cause spoilage or deterioration. In fact, scientists found more beneficial nutrients in frozen produce, as compared to fresh produce. They also reported no loss in nutrients from freezing products.
Wawona Frozen Foods, located in fertile Clovis, began as a small farm more than 50 years ago. Today, Wawona operates as growers, processors and major supplier of fruit and fruit products. 100 million pounds of fruit products, in fact. Wawona is proud to be the largest freestone peach freezer in the country. Wawona was started by Bill Smittcap’s father upon leaving the Marines after World War II.
Major brands, such as McDonald’s, Marie Callendar’s, Yoplait, Mrs. Smiths, and Bryers Ice Cream, use fruit from Wawona in their products. In 2016, it was reported that Wawona peaches were being used in McDonald’s summer peach smoothies. McDonald’s spokeswoman Rebecca Hary said the company selected Wawona because of its quality. The next time you dig into a Marie Callendar’s Peach Pie, you can thank Wawona for the fresh fruit. Wawona grows Freestone and Clingstone peaches and offers them as halves, sliced, diced and pureed. In addition to peaches, Wawona also sells and distributes strawberries, which are juicy, plump and delicious. Wawona’s mixed fruit varieties include the spectrum blend, California gold, premier blend, festival blend, tropi-cal blend, 3-berry blend, and 4-berry blend. Wawona’s Spectrum blend is colorful and comprised of white peaches, yellow peaches, strawberries, honeydew, pineapple, and blueberries. California gold is a mix of peaches, honeydew, cantaloupe, and red grapes. Wawona’s premier blend is comprised of honeydew, red grapes, pineapple, cantaloupe, and peaches. The festival blend includes mango, papaya, pineapple, and strawberries. Wawona’s tropi-cal blend is comprised of mango, peaches, pineapple, and strawberries. The berry blends includes blackberries, blueberries, red raspberries, and strawberries.
Wawona’s produce is also used in baby foods, yogurts, and schools across the United States. Wawona creates products for schools across the country that provide nutrition to students and are economical. Understanding that students can be picky eaters, Wawona delivers their produce in a fashion that allows it to be converted into cups with shortcake, cobblers, and fruit pastries, as well as fruit cups. It has been reported that Wawona makes over 50 million cups per year for the USDA school lunch program.
The family-owned and operated business is committed to delivering the best frozen fruit products and is very transparent about their processes. Wawona’s website explains step-by-step how they rapidly freeze their produce, through a process called IQF. Wawona is also committed to protecting our natural resources and sets a high standard for ethical conduct. They manage wind and water soil erosion, do not burn trash or vegetation and monitor and report air, water, and soil quality. Wawona is also actively involved in the community through donations and participating in community dinners during the holidays. In their plant, the fruit is washed, sized, and pitted before it is cut in half, then hand-inspected, and washed. Wawona’s small hard fruit is used in the yogurt trade, soft flavorful fruit is used in the ice cream industry and the perfect halves are used as a dessert sliced fruit.
Every year the Wawona employees participate in an employee giving campaign to support Valley Children’s Hospital. For every dollar donated by an employee, it is matched by Wawona. Last year, Wawona Frozen Foods raised over $75,000 for the Valley Children’s Hospital.
Wawona doesn’t exclusively produce frozen fruit and frozen fruit products, the Peach Tree Fruit Stand operates on their property in Clovis. The Peach Tree dates back 50 years and is a staple in the community. Fresh peaches are available in two varieties – Elberta’s and Elegant Ladies. Elberta peaches are considered America’s favorite peach and date back to 1875. While Elberta peaches are tender and delicious on their own, they are also delicious in cobblers and pies.
Nothing says summer like a ripe, juicy peach. Every July, Clovis hosts a peach party during the Friday night Farmers Market, which is sponsored by Wawona. Wawona brings their peach gem cookies and fruit cups as free samples for attendees. This year, Clovis and Wawona celebrated their 25th Annual Peach Party.
(Credit: Wawona https://wawona.com/peach-tree-fruit-stand/)