Grower: Rich Johansen
Located in: Orland, Calif.
Supplying PCC since: the late 1980s
PCC produce: Satsuma Mandarin Oranges, Clementines, Navel oranges, Blood oranges
Power boost: In early summer, Mandarin trees self-regulate the amount of fruit they produce based on their level of nourishment, Rich Johansen says, one reason it helps to have such intimate knowledge of each tree. "If (a tree) feels it’s healthy and has a lot of nutrients, it’ll keep a lot of crop. If it feels it doesn’t have enough nutrients for the crop it has, it’ll drop fruit. It can be deafening at times."
Life on a citrus ranch: Late spring is blooming time throughout the orchards. "It's the most intoxicating smell," he says. "The orchards make you feel like Ferdinand the Bull, when he goes smelling the daisies."
Harvest time: Mandarin harvest typically runs mid-November through December. Then come Clementines and Navels, from late December on into January.
A sweet tradition
Nestled in the sun-drenched valley between California's Sierra Nevada and coastal mountain ranges, Johansen Ranch has delivered sweet, organic, tree-ripened citrus to PCC Natural Markets since the late 1980s. Packed with tang and zest, their trademark fruit has brightened many a holiday table throughout our region.
The Johansen family's West Coast farming tradition took root when Anton and Bertha Johansen migrated from the Dakotas in 1910. That land, near the Sierra Nevada, got handed down through the generations and now is managed by Rich Johansen and his wife, Mila.
Rich grows a hardy variety of seedless Satsuma Mandarin Oranges called Owari, known for its sweetness and loose, easy-to-peel skin. It's a variety they tried out in 1960, after a neighboring citrus grower planted them. "My dad looked and said 'He must know something,'" Rich remembers.
Four year later, the neighbor had switched back to navels. After eight years, the Johansens wondered if they, too, should give up on the crop. They turned to a fruit tree expert who analyzed both trees and soil, found them good, and advised they stick it out until the trees fully matured.
There was also the challenge of introducing an unfamiliar citrus fruit. "Back then, I was going door-to-door selling these things one box at a time, and nobody would eat 'em," Rich remembers. "What happened is the kids started eating them, and the parents started noticing the kids would not only peel one and eat it, they'd peel two, three, four at a time. And that's how our market got going." Their high-quality fruit has since become a holiday tradition.
The Johansens also raise Clementine Mandarins, Washington Navels, Blood Oranges, Meyer Lemons and olives on their 80-acre ranch.