About Artisan Organics Fruits

Stemilt’s organic farming roots trace back to 1989, when founder Tom Mathison transitioned a large number of acres to organic production. This was the same year he launched our sustainability program, called Responsible Choice®, and long before organics became widely available.

Tom’s foresight into organics allowed Stemilt to evolve into an early leader in organic fruit. Today, we are a leading supplier of organic tree fruits and farm organic apples, pears, cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots. Our entire crop of peaches and nectarines is grown and certified organic!

Look for our organic fruits at your stores under our Artisan Organics label. You can also learn more about growing fruit organically on our blog.

How We Grow Organic Fruit

organics-tom

Every piece of our Artisan Organics fruit gets its start in a Stemilt orchard. The actual process of organic farming for apples, pearscherries and summer fruits doesn’t change too much from conventional to organic, but the national standards for organic farm certification mean only natural materials can be used in the orchard. Here’s a look into organic agriculture at Stemilt:

  • Organic farmers and those transitioning an orchard to organic production can only use natural fertilizers, like organic compost, to feed their crops. Manure, mulched cover crops and rock minerals are all tools an organic farmer uses to maintain soil fertility.
  • Growers use integrated pest management (IPM) techniques to control pests. Through IPM, they monitor insect populations and use the information they collect to decide if a control is needed.
  • When a pest problem in the orchard needs control, organic farmers rely on natural insecticides like pheromones, soaps, natural oils and other organic elements to prevent damage to their crop. Of course, any material they use in the orchard must be on the approved materials list set forth by the National Organic Standards Board.
  • Weeds in an organic orchard are controlled by cover crops, mulching and mowing or tilling methods rather than herbicides.
  • Learn more about growing fruit organically on our blog, The Stem.

It takes three consecutive years of farming organically before an orchard can be issued an organic certificate. Harvest for organic fruit mimics that of conventionally grown fruit. We hand-pick the fruit at optimal maturity and gently place it into plastic bins that are clearly marked organic. The fruit is then received at our facility, where it awaits packing.

How Organic Fruit is Packed

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After harvest, the journey for organic fruit continues at our packing facilities. The exact process for packing organic fruit depends on the fruit, but these extra measures must be taken at our facility to ensure organic integrity:

  • Organic fruit must be harvested into plastic bins. Bins of organic fruit are tagged as such when Stemilt receives them from the farmer. This helps us track the product throughout our system and prevents any co-mingling.
  • Organic apples and pears are either placed in controlled atmosphere storage to be packed at a later date, or packed immediately after harvest.
  • Organic cherries and summer fruits are packed quickly after harvest due to the perishability of these fruits.
  • The type of equipment used in organic fruit packing is the same as conventional. However, all equipment (brushes, belts, etc.) must be thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before packing organically.
  • At Stemilt, we have a dedicated packing line for organic apples, since they are packed regularly throughout the year.
  • Organic fruits are washed with a certified organic soap to remove any dust from the field. However, soap is not used when packing organic cherries.
  • Wax is not applied to any of our organic fruits. If you see wax on organic apples or pears, it was produced naturally by the fruit. Read more about this in our FAQs.
  • Just like the process for packing conventional fruit, organic fruit is sized, sorted for quality and in many cases, stickered. Stemilt puts the Artisan Organics logo on its stickers for organic fruits to easily identify the product.
  • Packaging is the best way to identify organic fruit at retail. Look for the Artisan Organics label to ensure you are buying organic. A leading “9” in front of the 4-digit PLU sticker also denotes an organic product.
  • Every year, Stemilt facilities are inspected by the USDA (or state agency) to ensure organic packing regulations are being met. Upon completion of a successful inspection, the USDA issues an organic certificate to each facility.

Organic Fruit Availability

Apples

From September to January

From January to April and from September to December

From January to May and from September to December

From January to May and from August to December

From January to July and from September to December

From January to June and from September to December

From January to April and from September to December

During January and from September to December

From September to November

From January to April and from October to December

From January to June and from October to December

From January to July and from September to December

From September to October

Cherries

From May to August

From May to July

Pears

From September to December

From August to December

From January to March and from September to December

During January and from September to December

From January to April and from October to December

From October to December

From August to December

From January to April and from October to December

From August to October

From August to September

Summer Fruit

From June to July

From August to September

From August to September

From August to September

From July to September