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The Quest for Flavor

The Quest for Flavor

As great stories often do, this one begins with a quest.

The definition of quest runs the gamut of possibilities, most centering around a hunt, a search, something to seek out. We infuse the word quest with a certain type of hunger, an adventure we cannot turn away from.

Some of our greatest stories involve quests, whether it is for truth, treasure, or, occasionally, a bit of both. For one family, a quest became a mission.

It became a search for flavor.

“I founded Family Tree Farms in 2001 alongside my sons, Rick and Daniel, and my son-in-law, Andy Muxlow,” begins David Jackson, Founder and Owner. “Our strong dedication to faith, family, and farming has been the foundation for a thriving vertically integrated farming operation.”

The four of them launched the company with one goal in mind: to “Consistently Produce, Package, and Market the Most Flavorful Fruit in the World.”

“We believed that providing people with sweeter, riper, and more flavorful fruit would create genuine demand and the kind of long-term customer loyalty that would build our family’s farming operation for generations to come,” David shares.

Family Tree Farms is a grower, packer, and shipper strategically located in the heart of the Central San Joaquin Valley of California. The family-owned and operated company grows a wide array of specialty stonefruit, citrus, kiwifruit, mangos, and berries in California, Africa, Mexico, and Peru.

“I don’t believe in the precedent that every quest ends in success. However, if one has the courage to keep moving forward and, as I like to say, climb sunshine mountain, one has the power to succeed.”

David Jackson, Founder and Owner, Family Tree Farms

“It’s a privilege for me and my family to come to work every day. We truly believe a meaningful and fruitful life is built on a foundation of faith, hard work, and integrity,” David shares.

As Family Tree Farms has progressed over its 22 years, David offers insights into what made the company what it is today.

“We have a zeal for flavor, and our customers know us for that,” he notes. “With exclusive genetics, cutting-edge agri-technology, and an impressive research and development team, we’re able to bring high-quality products to market.”

Not to mention a world-class marketing team that has cemented the company’s name as a farming company worth watching.

Family Tree Farms uniquely includes yearly replantings of large amounts of acreage to remain on the cutting edge with new varieties. One such introduction was of jumbo blueberries, Jumboz, which boast enormous flavor and crunch—and which Family Tree Farms has the exclusive rights to grow.

“We also offer a high variety of Plumcots, which are an exceptional fruit,” David tells me, pride evident in his voice. “We have more than 20 varieties to offer and are always adding more to keep our portfolio ever-expanding.”

Every quest is not without its challenges—those moments that test the mettle of its players. Inflation, shifting geopolitical conditions, consumer demand, access to water, and the high cost of labor have affected Family Tree Farms just like many other farming operations.

“I don’t believe in the precedent that every quest ends in success. However, if one has the courage to keep moving forward and, as I like to say, climb sunshine mountain, one has the power to succeed,” David says.

This is why Family Tree Farms’ innovative spirit is central not only to the company’s success, but to its value system as a whole.

“Our flavor-first approach has taken our team literally around the globe,” David reflects. “Today, we have exclusive agreements with many of the world’s top breeders, and this allows us to seek out the best-tasting varietal selections and assess them at our very own R&D center, which we established in 2005. Varieties being evaluated at our facility represent nine countries and 28 varietal programs. Ten acres of test plots are used to grow 1,000 varieties annually, only one to three of which will be commercially successful.”

It’s obvious that the value of flavor cannot be stressed enough. Family Tree Farms rests its laurels upon taste and customer satisfaction.

“In the coming years, we have many plans to expand to be able to provide even more of the world’s most flavorful fruit.”

“We determine which varieties are successful through weekly tastings, each including as many as 20 different varietal selections to our team,” David goes on to explain. “Participants score each selection based on flavor, visual appearance, firmness, and other criteria. Table favorites are extensively reviewed, evaluated for cultural performance, and only the best-of-the-best are planted for commercial use.”

The growers also work diligently to care for the land they sow. Since the early 2000s, Family Tree Farms has been converting its farm operations to micro-drip irrigation systems, automated precision irrigation systems, and soil moisture monitoring technology.

“As a result of these efforts, we’ve developed sophisticated irrigation schedules and eliminated excess water waste. For energy efficiency, we’ve installed solar panels and energy-saving lighting in our production facilities, while training our staff on sustainable initiatives that reduce emissions. We also take a holistic approach with our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to maintain the health and quality of our plants and soil. Our IPM program enables us to be methodical, strategic, and targeted, resulting in reduced pesticide use and increased soil and plant health,” David adds.

The attention to the land is extended to the communities that make up Family Tree Farms. With medical aid on the ranches, safe working conditions, and education benefits, the company works hard to care for people as it does its fruit.

“We’re poised for the future and serious in our commitment to flavor, even past what we already produce,” David emphasizes as we begin to close our conversation. “In the coming years, we have many plans to expand to be able to provide even more of the world’s most flavorful fruit.”

These plans include:

  • 2023: Growing blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries in Mexico

  • 2024: Developing further apple operations in California and Washington

  • 2025: Importing mangos from Mexico

  • 2026: Importing kiwifruit from Africa

Family Tree Farms isn’t stopping there, as additional plans include varietal trial programs in other countries, as well as a blueberry expansion in Mexico and Peru.

All in the name of searching for the best possible flavor. The quest can take us by surprise sometimes, but for companies like Family Tree Farms and leaders like David Jackson, the adventure is always purposeful and fun.

The quest is always worth it. 

The Quest for Flavor