California’s San Joaquin Valley provides ideal conditions to grow stone fruits, particularly freestone and clingstone peaches. A blend of freestone peaches from Wawona Frozen Foods, a third-generation family business based in Clovis, is one of the ingredients in the Summer Harvest Cobbler, available in the restaurants from August 8-14.
Wawona Frozen Foods predecessor company, Wawona Packing, began operations in 1945 when Earl Smittcamp bought an orchard ranch called Wawona. American native Indians in the area had given the ranch that name, which legend has it means tall trees and whispering winds.
“My dad, Bill, who is CEO and President of Wawona Frozen Foods, runs our family’s frozen food business,” says Blake Smittcamp, Wawona’s Vice President of Sales. Wawona Frozen Foods has between 400 and 500 acres of orchards, all within a handful of miles of their processing facility in Clovis.
“A cousin has taken over our fresh operation and moved that to Cutler, CA, about 45 miles from our business in Clovis, which is very near Fresno,” Blake says. The extended family’s fresh operation includes about 25,000 acres and is one of the largest suppliers of fresh fruit to Wawona Frozen Foods.
During peach harvest, which typically runs from the last week of June through the first week of October, Wawona Frozen Foods processes about 75 million pounds of peaches, about 10 million pounds of which is a blend of freestone varieties and 65 million pounds of clingstone. The peaches purchased by Garden Fresh are the blend of freestone, which Blake says has a more intense flavor profile and is sweeter than clingstone, making them ideal for baking purposes.
Once peaches are picked, they are brought to the processing plant where they are pitted, then skinned. The peaches delivered to Garden Fresh are sliced and frozen and packaged in 40-pound boxes. Shelf life for the frozen peaches is two years, though they don’t last long to be used in the Garden Fresh Central Kitchens for the limited time offering of the Summer Harvest Cobbler.
“Our entire focus is on quality product,” Blake says. “Everything is done by hand and we’ve fine-tuned our processes over the decades. Our core business involves customers who use our products for ingredient use, like pie, ice cream, yogurt and food service retail and they demand the very best fruit and that is what we deliver in every shipment,” he said.
About Wawona Frozen Foods
Located in California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley, Wawona Frozen Foods specializes in the growing and freezing of fresh fruits. Beginning as a small farm over fifty years ago, we continue today as a grower, processor and major supplier of fruit and fruit products. Pioneering the frozen fruit industry, this family owned company is a result of one farmer’s commitment to deliver the very best fresh frozen fruit products to the market place. Wawona’s success and prosperity is due to our family’s commitment to excellence and continues today as a family owned and operated company. We ship more than 100 million pounds of product annually. www.wawona.com