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Posts Tagged: Coffee

California’s nascent coffee industry to hold summit Jan. 18

Jay Ruskey, left, and Mark Gaskell, shown at a coffee tasting in 2015. They planted their first California coffee field trial in 2002.
Coffee is being commercially grown in California and coffee drinkers can't get enough of the locally produced beverage, which currently retails for about $18 per cup. Anyone who is interested in growing, processing or marketing specialty coffee in California is invited to a Coffee Summit on Jan. 18 at Cal Poly Pomona.

Until recently, American coffee was grown commercially only in Hawaii. To make the most of their precious water, California farmers have begun experimenting with coffee plantings and producing beans that fetch a premium.

“There are about 30,000 coffee trees now planted on about 30 farms and that acreage will continue to grow during 2018 with programmed new plantings,” said Mark Gaskell, UC Cooperative Extension advisor who works with coffee growers in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. “Only a relatively small amount of the planted acreage is now producing, but the market interest and demand continue to outpace anticipated new production for the foreseeable future.” 

At the Coffee Summit, participants will learn about new opportunities for this high-value crop from industry professionals. Summit topics will include development of estate coffee, coffee production, pests and diseases, processing methods and marketing.

Coffee is planted from Morro Bay to San Diego, with production concentrated in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Diego counties, according to Gaskell.

Coffee interplanted with established avocado orchards requires no additional land, water or fertilizer.

California coffee industry leaders from Santa Barbara and San Diego counties and agriculture professionals with University of California Cooperative Extension, University of Hawaii and U.S. Department of Agriculture will give presentations and answer questions.

Good Land Organics grower Jay Ruskey, who has been growing coffee in Santa Barbara County since 2002, and Gaskell will discuss growing coffee in California.

Based on their coffee variety research trials, UC Cooperative Extension advisors Ramiro Lobo and Gary Bender, both based in San Diego County, and Duncan McKee of Cal Poly Pomona will discuss which varieties are suitable for production in California.

“We are working collaboratively with UC Cooperative Extension to determine the best coffee varieties for our area,” said Valerie J. Mellano, Cal Poly Pomona professor and chair of the Plant Science Department. “Much of the California coffee is grown along the more coastal areas, but we are really interested in determining what will do well in the more inland areas, where it is a little hotter in the summer and a little colder in the winter.

“We are starting the second year of our trial and will be able to see how certain varieties hold up in the colder weather this winter, but we will not have any coffee yield data for a couple more years.”

Andy Mullins of Frinj Coffee, a cooperative of 24 farms including Good Land Organics, will discuss business and marketing opportunities for new California coffee growers.

The Inaugural Coffee Summit will be hosted by the Huntley College of Agriculture on Jan. 18, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the AgriScapes Conference Center at Cal Poly Pomona. Registration is $75 and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and coffee tasting. For more information and registration, visit


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Posted on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at 3:28 PM
Tags: Coffee (3), Mark Gaskell (2)

Summer farm fun

This time of year, most farmers don't get much sleep. Tomatoes, pears and peaches often ripen in the Sacramento Valley faster than the harvest crews can pick them, even working 12-hour days. But this is also the season that some farmers are happy to show off their farms to visitors, inviting guests to enjoy the delightful flavors and beauty of the harvest in a pause from the bustle. UC Cooperative Extension hosts an online agritourism directory and calendar,, to help Californians find farms and ranches to visit. Here are a few upcoming opportunities for summer fun on California farms, pulled from the calendar:

  • The farmers of Five Foot Farm.
    Plumas County Farm Crawl
    - Up the Feather River Canyon, on the eastern side of the Sierras, are the beautiful communities of Quincy and Indian Falls. Small-scale growers, members of Plumas Grown, offer tours and fresh snacks from their fields from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturday August 6, 2016. Each farm will offer tours on the half hour (8:30, 9:30, 10;30 and 11:30). Participating farms include a school garden project, Five Foot Farm, Shoofly Farm and Sundberg Growers. Strawberries, tomatoes, garlic, carrots, huge heads of lettuce, hoop houses, and intense cultivation on small plots will be featured. Bring the kiddos, friends and family (no dogs please). All of these operations use sustainable growing practices and are happy to chat with you about why they love to grow good food. Admission by donation, no pre-registration required. Learn more: (707) 217-6415 or
  • Good Humus Peach Party (Yolo County) - Every year on the first Saturday in August, Jeff and Annie Main, owners of 20-acre Good Humus Produce, hold a celebration to give thanks for the year's fruit harvest. They invite you all to come out, see the farm, have a refreshment and enjoy all that Good Humus has to offer. This is a pot luck party; guests are asked to bring a dish to share and their own plates, silverware and cups. No cost, but donations are welcomed. The Mains will provide peach pies, peach ice cream, peach salsa, peach pizzas, and more. You are invited to come early and be part of the experience of making all the peachy fun food. Other activities include a treasure hunt, farm tours, stock tank dipping, music and neighborly chat. Saturday August 6, 1 p.m. - 11 p.m. Learn more
  • Tomato Sauce Party at Eatwell Farm (Solano County) - It's time to join in on the tradition. Let's get canning! Tomato season is in full swing on the farm, and the plants are bursting with ripe and juicy tomatoes ready for picking. Join us as we harvest the bounty of the farm, toss it in a pot, and create delicious tomato sauce to savor the rest of the year. The produce is free, so bring as many jars as you can process over the two day event. The ticket price covers the cost of hosting the event and paying staff. Cost: adults $20, Children $5. August 6 - 7, 2016  Learn more and buy tickets here
  • Grape Days of Summer (Placer County) - Celebrate PlacerGROWN — local wine, local food, local agriculture. Take a self-guided tour of up to 20 wineries, taste foothill wines and enjoy a unique and educational experience at each stop on the Placer County Wine Trail. Saturday & Sunday, August 6 & 7, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. WHERE: Placer County Wine Trail - Auburn, Lincoln, Loomis, Meadow Vista, Newcastle & Rocklin. Activities: Learn About Wine & Wine Making • Live Music at Some Locations • Food at Every Winery • Barrel Tastings • Vineyard Tours • Vertical Tastings • . . . and more! Tickets: Weekend Pass - $45.00,  Sunday Only - $25.00/person, Designated Driver - $10.00/person  website, more info
  • Wine and Produce Passport Weekend (Sacramento River Delta) - Just minutes from Sacramento and Elk Grove, along scenic CA Hwy 160, Delta Farm and Winery Trail members will open their farms and wineries to the public. Farms are open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and wineries from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  During Passport Weekend, enjoy farm tours, local wine tastings, farm equipment displays, and contests. Fresh produce - including tomatoes, pears, melons, squash, stone fruits, sweet corn, zucchini, beans, eggs, and organic produce - will be readily available at many of the farms. Saturday and Sunday August 13 and 14. Tickets: adults $25 in advance, $35 week of purchase and are valid for both days. Kids under 21 are free. Tickets are available for purchase online at Each visitor over 21 will receive a wine glass at their first winery stop.
  • Good Land Organics Coffee Tour (Santa Barbara County) - The tour will be lead by Good Land Organics owner and grower, Jay Ruskey. You will be welcomed with fresh coffee, freshly made juice and seasonal fruit.  Jay will give an overview of the coffee research collaboration that has been conducted with the assistance of the University of California Small Farm Program.  He will then lead you on a moderate level hike where Ruskey will explain the dynamics of new crop adaptation and integration of organic tree fruit agriculture. The walk will
    Coffee trees at the Good Land Organics farm.
    take you through the eclectic mix of exotic fruit varieties that grow on the farm. Each person will have an opportunity to taste a fresh picked coffee berry and discover the original flavors of the coffee bean, while discussing coffee cultivation and post harvest processing. On your return hike, there will be time for open discussion and for any further questions.  At noon you have the option to enjoy your picnic lunch at our pond. August 13, 2016, 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Cost: $50 per person. website, reservations

Learn about more farms, ranches and adventurous fun at

Posted on Monday, August 1, 2016 at 2:12 PM

Is there a potato in my coffee?

Skin lesions caused by the antestia bug on coffee beans. (Photo: Mario Serracin, Rogers Family Company)
One reason for the successful economic miracle occurring in Rwanda today is its thriving specialty coffee industry that, along with tea, accounts for a large percentage of the country’s exports. Despite this success, however, coffee from Rwanda and neighboring Burundi is plagued by a condition called potato taste defect (PTD) in which a few coffee beans impart an odor and flavor reminiscent of rotten potatoes.

So pernicious is PTD that its occurrence can downgrade the value of the entire crop by a fourth or a third. Worse yet, PTD is only apparent after processing, roasting, grinding and brewing, and can occur long after the coffee has been shipped abroad.

Thought to be caused by chemicals produced by microbes that gain access to the coffee cherries by way of a stink bug called antestia, PTD has gained the attention of an international effort, called the potato taste project, that for two years has sought the cause and cure for the defect

Two undergraduate students at the University of California, Riverside, have played key roles in the potato taste project.

“Lauren Wong and Tony Truong made a key breakthrough discovery that led to our asking one of UC Riverside’s plant pathologists, James Borneman, to do a microbiome of coffee beans in Rwanda,” says Thomas Miller, a professor of entomology at UCR and one of the members of the international team working to mitigate the potential impact of the defect on Rwanda’s specialty coffee industry.

The antestia bug feeding on coffee beans. (Photo: Mario Serracin, Rogers Family Company)
Wong and Truong focused on the microbial difference between the defective coffee beans and the beans that passed the stringent criteria that allows them to be deemed specialty coffee. Wong swiped good and bad raw coffee beans onto culture plates and found a dramatic difference: the good beans produced clean fungal colonies while the bad beans yielded mixed cultures of bacteria and fungi.

“We juxtaposed beans that had passed the stringent criteria against numerous batches of beans that had potato taste defect,” says Wong, who graduated in spring 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and is currently working in Miller’s lab. “When we roasted the beans, we found that all the potato taste defect microbes were killed.”

Truong examined whether the potato taste defect microbes can be manipulated to affect coffee taste.

“My experiment is a stepping stone to finding a solution for potato taste defect,” says Truong, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in 2015. “Are bacterial/fungal infections the source of the problem? Can the affected coffee beans be treated to remove the effects of potato taste defect? These are some of the questions I am exploring.”

Tony Truong (left) and Lauren Wong are students at UC Riverside.
Neither Wong nor Truong have traveled to Rwanda yet, but are in close communication with researchers there. With its high altitude and volcanic soil, Rwanda is an ideal place to grow specialty coffee. To tackle the antestia-potato taste challenge, Miller and the rest of the international team traveled to Rwanda in early 2012 to join coffee researchers at the National University of Rwanda (NUR).

Then, Miller stayed in Rwanda for two weeks that comprised meetings, workshops and numerous field trips. He has been in nearly daily email contact with Rwanda since.

“That visit helped us all get a better understanding of potato taste and its causes,” he says. “We gathered coffee bean samples for analysis in the United States and began collaborating with Rwandan scientists. We also assisted Rwanda in reaching out and making contact with people willing to help solve the potato taste defect problem.”

The culmination of the first two years of the PTD project will be a coffee summit on 1-2 April 2014 at NUR. The meeting is being organized by NUR and the Global Knowledge Initiative, a Washington DC, non-profit organization dedicated to finding solutions to problems in developing countries.

More information about PTD can be found at

Posted on Friday, August 23, 2013 at 1:30 PM
Tags: antestia (1), coffee (3), potato taste defect (1), Rwanda (1)

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