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Life's a bowl cherries
at Meena Farms

Twenty-eight years ago when the Iyer family purchased a charry farm on the outskirts of Gustine, they did it with the vision that they could cultivate the 20-acres into a successful operation.

One hiccup, however, existed. Those initial cherries were not good. In fact, Managing Partner Lax Iyer described them as “old” and “nasty.”

“But we used them to learn,” Iyer said. And learn they did. From studying climates, soils, growth patterns, packaging and everything else related to cherries, Iyer threw himself into growing the best quality cherry he could.

“We are in the business of satisfying customers with amazing flavor,” Iyer said. “That has been our goal from day one.”

Today, Meena Farms, which has grown to 800 acres of cherry trees, is known across the globe for their flavorful harvest and superior quality. Their orchards became a place where tradition met innovation when they opened a custom packing operation and are currently embarking on Meena Packing, which will see the entire operation from harvest to packing all at one facility, rather than having the cherries shipped to another facility to be packed and then loaded up for shipping, all of which can impact the flavor, explained General Manager Chris Medeiros.

“As soon as you pull that cherry from the tree, its time clock starts,” Medeiros said. “It’s like sand in the hourglass and you only have so much time to get it from your field to the consumer. How you handle the product is extremely important. Cold chain is paramount. So, having something centrally located made sense for our operation.”

Meena Farms is taking the same dedication to quality and applying it to Meena Packing.

“This will be the most state-of-the-art cherry facility probably in North America,” Medeiros said. “Each piece of fruit is picked by hand and each is sorted individually. Then it’s run under high speeds by a camera as it is rotated. There’s dozens of pictures taken of that piece of fruit externally. Internally, we can see if there’s some defect near the pit. We can sort them by size, shape, color, firmness and now there is even technology that will allow us to sort by Brix level, which is the sugar level. It’s put into a box and we can trace back to that box that piece of fruit to the ranch and where it came from. That’s how state-of-the-art we are talking about.”

Export sales make up the bulk of Meena Farms’ business, with their cherries highly sought after across the globe.

“After seven years we are the number one label in many countries,” Medeiros said. “We’re the number one label for cherries out of California and sometimes are buyers tell us we were the best fruit they bought all year. It goes back to the practices that we use and also the area has a lot to offer in the way of water, soil and climate.”

Meena Farms can also be found in some retail outlets and has plans to offer the cherries on site.

“We’ve come a long way from those first 20 acres of trees,” Iyer said. “It’s just incredible. The journey has been wonderful.”