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Sourcing Strawberries: A Look at How Crofter’s Picks Its Berries

November 16, 2018

In 1989, Crofter’s Organic planted roots along the rugged shoreline of the Georgian Bay (just north of Toronto) and set out to make one thing: the best jam. “Strawberries are probably the most quintessential fruit in the jam makers tool kit,” said Dan Latka, Director of Sales and Marketing. But he was quick to point out that not all berries are created equal.

Crofter’s is fanatical about quality, and when it comes to sourcing strawberries (and every other fruit), the team is downright obsessed with picking only the best, building relationships with top farmers, and upholding sustainable practices both in its facilities and on the farms. Here’s a closer look at what goes into every jar.

Going to the Source

“Fruit is the most important ingredient in fruit spreads and jams, so if we use low-quality fruit, it’ll show in the end product,” Dan shared. “When you taste our fruit spreads, you’ll notice a bright and fruity flavor, not sticky sweet like some jams or jellies. This is due to the lower sugar content, but also the fruit varieties. We make sure our grower partners harvest the fruit at peak ripeness—this helps ensure the flavors are fully developed.”

Sengana Strawberries

So, what does it take for a berry to make the cut? Here are some of Crofter’s strawberry standards:

  • Small fruit with very little white flesh on the inside
  • Vibrant red color
  • Potent flavor profile

Crofter’s found what it was looking for in the Senga Sengana and the Camarosa strawberries. “We try to stick to fruits known as ‘heritage varieties,’ which haven’t been hybridized or changed over time to achieve greater yields or larger fruit size. That’s also why they typically taste the best and have the most nutritional value,” Dan said.

It’s not enough to know which varieties are best—Crofter’s relies on its strong relationships with farmers along the way. “We’ve worked with the best fruit growers in the world—some for 15 years or more,” Dan said. “We visit our growers and processors frequently to make sure the facilities are clean, and that the supply chain isn’t contaminated with any prohibited chemicals under the organic code.” Nature cooperates for the most part, but late harvest frosts can have a significant impact on crop yields. During these years, Crofter’s either finds other suppliers, or pays a premium for the fruits available. “No matter what, we stick with the varieties we know are best. We don’t jump ship because of price or sourcing challenges,” Dan said.

Depending on the grower, the fruit can follow one of two paths. Some berries are grown in co-op’s, where small family farms grow and harvest fruit together, then send batches to large freezing facilities for sorting, freezing, and packaging. With larger operations, growers harvest and process the fruit on their own. Either way, every strawberry is individually quick-frozen and sent to Crofter’s in 40,000-pound quantities by sea container, truck, or train. Annually, Crofter’s purchases nearly 2.5 million pounds of organic strawberries!

Supporting Sustainability

Long before the USDA passed organic regulations in 2000, Crofter’s refused to source fruit from farms using synthetic chemicals or GMOs. When Crofter’s started making biodynamic jams, it was simply considered the next step in furthering the brand’s commitment to sustainable production and regenerative agriculture.

“What makes biodynamic unique is it goes beyond sustainability, but can actually regenerate the land by restoring soil fertility and sequestering carbon from the air. It’s truly the most comprehensive form of agriculture, which not only makes the world a better place, but also yields some of the most flavorful and nutritious food.”

Crofter's

In addition to biodynamic growing practices, there are a few other ways Crofter’s stays mindful of its environmental footprint:

  • A wastewater treatment plant has helped them reduce water consumption by over 85 percent. Systems also ‘recycle’ heat to warm buildings and provide Crofter’s with hot water, eliminating the need for a separate heating system.
  • All of its glass jars are recyclable.
  • It recycles 99 percent of raw materials’ packaging.
  • It uses natural gas generators instead of relying on grids.

Top Crofter’s Products

Our members are wild about jam, and spread the love by sharing their amazing (and unique!) snacking tips. Have a read to discover a new favorite!

Biodynamic Blueberry Jam

“I love it with a little maple syrup and some walnuts on top of toast!”
—Leanna

“I will never use any other fruit preserve on my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ever again. I could eat this stuff plain off a spoon. SO. GOOD.”
—Ally

Premium Apricot Jam

“I buy these three at a time, for just me! I sit in front of Netflix with a jar of this, Santa Cruz Organic peanut butter, and a spoon … I should probably be ashamed. I’m not.”
—Anonymous

“I love this stuff on toast. Or by the spoonful. It’s just like my mom used to make!”
—Leah

Morello Cherry Jam

“Love this as a treat on rice cakes!”
—Lisa

“This is great on a PB&J and it’s pretty good as an ice-cream topper too. Order a jar. You’ll be glad you did!”
—Kelli

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Nicole Gulotta

Nicole Gulotta is a writer, author, and tea enthusiast.

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