Grimm Future

Grower of the Month: Cal-Organic Farms, a division of Grimmway Farms

Published online: Sep 05, 2019 Articles, Grower of the Month Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This article appears as the cover feature in the September 2019 issue of Potato Grower.

In the early 19th century, German brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm made a name for themselves by putting pen to paper to create heroes who utilized a mix of courage, magic and good luck to rid the world of evils like impenetrable towers, wicked stepmothers, and gingerbread-house-dwelling witches. You know, the standard fare, stuff the people could easily relate to.

A century and half later, across an ocean and a continent, another pair of Brothers Grimm took a different approach to chasing happy endings. Rather than looking at the world as full of evils to be conquered, California natives Rod and Bob Grimm looked around them and saw an abundance of natural resources on which they felt they could improve.

The brothers operated a successful roadside produce stand near Anaheim throughout the 1960s, with sweet corn being their biggest moneymaker. Banking on that success, they incorporated their business in 1969. In 1981, with the farming operation continuing to grow, they moved the company to the fertile region of southern California’s Kern County.

Through a long series of shrewd business and agronomic decisions, Grimmway Farms, as the company was now known, had become a bit of a heavy hitter in the produce industry. In 1990, the Grimms, in an uncanny anticipation of market trends, were among the first producers on the baby carrot train. The move catapulted the company’s growth, as peeled baby carrots continue to be a consistently popular and profitable crop 30 years later, and enabled the acquisition of several other farming operations in the region.  

Two key acquisitions came as the Grimm family transitioned into the 21st century. The first came in 2000, when Grimmway purchased King Pak Potato Company, which had been packing Grimmway’s red and yellow potatoes for several years. Then, in 2001, they acquired Cal-Organic Farms, a true pioneer in organic farming that had been growing organic fruit and vegetables—including several potato varieties—since 1984. Today, Grimmway and its subsidiaries produce some 65 crops on more than 85,000 acres in California, Colorado, Washington, Florida and Georgia. Cal-Organic’s fresh russet, red, yellow and fingerling potatoes can be found in grocery stores and on dinner tables across the country.

Brandon, Brett and Bryan Grimm, seen here prior to Cal-Organic's carrot harvest, are proudly carrying on a legacy of responsible farming and land stewardship started by Bob and Rod Grimm over 50 years ago.

A major mantra at Grimmway is “our farming-first approach,” which has helped them build a reputation—even amid the company’s incredible growth—for premium quality. Cal-Organic migrates across several growing regions to take advantage of optimal growing conditions year-round.

“We’re one of the first growers to harvest fresh crop potatoes in the spring,” says Grimmway president Jeff Huckaby. “We’re able to sustain supply into the fall by shifting harvest Imperial County [Calif.] to Kern County mid-season, and then to our other growing regions.

“As stewards of some of the most productive farmland in the country, Grimmway and Cal-Organic are dedicated to protecting natural resources and preserving the environment,” Huckaby continues. “We’re constantly improving our practices to reduce waste and minimize our use of energy, water and fertilizer while optimizing crop yields and soil health. By investing in maintaining our land, we’re able to build healthy, productive soil and grow premium quality vegetables that provide value to retail partners and consumers alike.”

After more than 50 years in business, Grimmway Farms remains family-owned and -operated. Bob Grimm’s sons Brandon and Brett are integral members of the management team. Brandon oversees the company’s organic production facilities, and Brett is a sales associate for Cal-Organic. Several Grimm family members also serve on the Grimmway board of directors and make a point to attend company events.

On top of remaining a family-based company for so long, Grimmway also prides itself on retaining quality employees and promoting from within. Huckaby has been with the company for more than 20 years, and senior vice president of agriculture Todd Jones brings over 30 years of experience overseeing large-scale farming operations with expertise in growing potato, onion, carrot and grain crops. Many other tenured members of the Grimmway team—from agronomists to ranch managers, pest control advisors and harvest specialists—have influenced Grimmway’s potato program over the years.

“We’re proud that Grimmway has been family-owned and -operated for more than 50 years,” says Huckaby. “In that time, we’ve developed longstanding relationships by providing quality products and consistent service that our customers have come to expect.”

Sounds like a good recipe for a happily ever after.