Gastrophoria is a fresh carrot pulled straight from the ground at Grimmway Farms.
Having lived in the city all my life, the closest I’ve been to fresh produce is through rare farmer market visits. Rather, my usual interactions involve the brightly lit space of supermarkets filled with manicured displays of produce, sprayed intermittently with water and protected in clear cellophane. Nowhere close to the real deal.
So, when an invitation arrived from Grimmway Farms for the opportunity to tour their farms, I packed my bag for an eye-opening (and tasty) weekend dedicated to carrots.
Located 2 hours outside of Los Angeles in Bakersfield, the family own and ran Grimmway Farms is currently the largest grower and packer of carrots. If you had ever eaten a carrot in your lifetime, chances are, it’s from Grimmway. To give a sense of how much carrots that translates into, around 1 million pounds of the beta-carotene rich vegetable is harvested and processed by the farm—each day.
To see their production in action, we arrived at the farm early in the morning to watch harvesting done at one of their baby carrot fields. While I was expecting miniature carrot plants, baby carrots are actually a breed of carrots that produces skinnier and sweeter carrots from the normal variety. The only other difference is that they are cut into their signature length when processed.
To harvest the carrots, you can go about it the ole’ fashion way with a shovel and sheer strength. It’s definitely satisfying to pull a handful out, dusting off the soil and crunching on a fresh one. It’s so sweet that it tastes like carrot candy!
However, for the sake of time, a more efficient way is by using the harvester, a 20 foot high carrot-uprooting machine. The rotating steel prongs lifts the carrots up into cutter which separates the tops from the bottoms. The carrots then makes its way into a neighboring truck while the greens are saved for dairy farms to be used as feed.
The loaded trucks then make their way to the processing facility, where each carrot gets a good wash, cut into appropriate size and polished before getting shipped to your closest grocery. Think of it as the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory, but much more healthier.
To taste some of the day’s bounty, we made our way over to the Grimmway Academy, the farm’s very own elementary school. Founded by Barbara Grimm-Marshall (and may I add, Jane Lynch doppleganger), the school is committed to bringing a solid education to rural communities of Kern County. With the school’s background in agriculture, it features an edible schoolyard and kitchen classroom.
The teachers of the kitchen classroom served us a grown-up version of the day’s school lunch, which included a herb roasted chicken and potatoes, cumin scented carrots, fennel and parmesan salad, grain and feta salad.
Imagine having this for lunch everyday at school—a far far cry from the limp boiled frozen veggies and microwaved pizza from my school experience. If I could do-over my childhood, I would have loved to attend school here just for the food!
Not only that, having the opportunity to learn how to make things grow and actively participate allows their students to gain appreciation on fresh foods as well as making healthier choices.
I wish the Grimm family continued success and gratitude for giving me a insider’s look into the world of carrots!
P.O. Box 81498
Bakersfield, CA 93380
Phone: 1(800) 301–3101
901 Nectarine Court
Arvin, CA 93203
Phone: (661) 855-8200
[Carrot production facilities photos courtesy of Grimmway Farms]