Organic coffee grown in California: a total pipe dream, right? Not anymore. Frinj
Coffee, Inc. is a cutting-edge operation working to establish the crop in a new location, supporting an innovative network of coffee growers concerned with high quality and thoughtful farming. Good Land Organics
is the flagship farm in the Frinj family, and also serves as Frinj’s primary post-harvest processing facility and main educational site, in Goleta, CA.
Frinj’s coffee trees are planted throughout Southern California across several more familiar California crops, including avocados, citrus, and wine grapes. They are partnering with researchers to develop their own breeds suited to the particulars of the California climate and soil, and use the Arable Mark device and analytics platform to collect data and observe what is working — and not working — with their growing practices. As the foundation of a young industry with an eye towards scaling out across the state, having precise climate, plant, and soil data is critical to their success. Here, Arable’s Levon Minassian chats with Frinj’s Kaytlin O’Dell, Field Manager, and Greg Kitajima, Irrigation Specialist, to learn more about this exciting endeavor during a recent trip to Goleta.Arable Labs (AL): Let’s start with a little background on your operation.Frinj Coffee (FC):
Jay [Ruskey, CEO & Founder for Frinj] started Good Land Organics in 1992, and has been working with coffee for over 17 years. He had a vision, and now Frinj has a network of 47 growers, each part of an organic-oriented, thoughtful movement where the coffee really speaks for itself. Even today, people think it’s impossible to grow coffee in California; there is a misconception that coffee growing is altitude-dependent, but really it’s the temperature range that matters most. Not too long ago people didn’t grow blueberries here; the idea was that there were not enough chill hours, or that the soil pH is too high. Now we are in the top ten blueberry-producing states, and that happened in only the last couple decades*. We’re going to see a similar trend in coffee.AL: What led you to Arable?FC:
After one of the worst growing seasons ever — a hard frost in late 2017, followed by the Thomas fire and the mud slides, then a heat wave just before the coldest winter on record — Mother Nature’s gift of rain this season has been a blessing for coffee and avocados. We know it’s not going to last, so in this time of abundance, it’s a good time for us to focus on the technologies that can help us to best grow our coffee. It’s exciting to work with Arable because we can get a very detailed explanation of how much water we are using at each of our sites. Also, the ease of install and implementation — we manage a lot of folks here, and need tools we’re able to read and use easily. Good customer support makes the transition to new technology so much more pleasant.