Fresno County: Leading Producer of Garlic in the USA

July 16, 2009 7:42:47 AM PDT
The strong aroma of thousands of pounds of garlic being gathered is unmistakable, "It always smells good when garlic season starts", said Douglas Stanley. Douglas Stanley is amused when he hears about Gilroy being the Garlic Capital of the World.

Douglas Stanley, Harris Fresh General Mgr. Said "The reality is Gilroy's got its claim to fame and once upon a time Gilroy was the largest producer in the country. Today Fresno County is by far the leading producer of garlic in the United States, period

The amount of garlic grown in Gilroy is just a drop in the bucket. The 297 acres of garlic grown in Santa Clara County are worth a $1,000,000 dollars. Fresno County produced 20,000 acres of garlic worth $169,000,000 dollars.

The Gilroy Garlic Festival still attracts crowds who come for the food and the fun but the area's run out of space to grow garlic.

"Uh they're growing houses. They're growing mini-marts and shopping malls and outlets. Urban expansion from San Jose is what really pushed most of the garlic out of that area." said Douglas Stanley, Harris Fresh General Mgr

Places like Huron have picked up the slack, despite water challenges. Garlic is a labor intensive crop. The workers start before sun-up when it's cooler.

This crop was cut several weeks ago and left to dry under the tops which now resemble straw. Crews go through the rows, pull up and clip the garlic.

"Basically that's what we take to the packing shed. 1800 pounds in a bin." said Douglas Stanley, Harris Fresh General Mgr

Each bin is covered to protect the crop. Farmers know how important large cloves of garlic are to your recipe.

While Fresno County grows most of the garlic in the US, china produces two-thirds of the world's garlic. Stanley says it's easy to spot California grown garlic. It has roots.

"California garlic at the store will still be clean but will still has a bit of a root plate left on it.", said Douglas Stanley, Harris Fresh General Mgr

Douglas Stanley isn't bothered by Gilroy's claim to fame. He enjoys the garlic festival just like everyone else.

He just wants consumers to understand the importance of buying U.S. grown crops which face stricter safety regulations.

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