Ojai Pixie tangerines are citrus royalty around these parts. They’re spring’s cause for celebration—even to the point of having their own Ojai Pixie Month in years past. With all the challenges Mother Nature has thrown their way, we wondered how our sweet, juicy Ojai Pixies are doing. We caught up with Ojai Pixie growers Emily Ayala, Jim Churchill, Lisa Brenneis and Tony Thacher to find out. Here’s what they had to say.
We have had an interesting last few months here in the Ojai Valley. The Thomas Fire scorched our mountains, burning all around the Ojai Valley. Many Ojai Pixie growers stayed through the fire, beating back flames that scorched the edges of their orchards and squelching embers that landed farther into their properties. Now growers on the Valley’s charred edges are knee-deep in melted pipes, hoses—and paperwork for county agricultural officials and insurance companies.
Before the fire, we knew we’d have a smaller crop this year than last, as the trees are alternate bearing and our 2017 crop was close to 5 million pounds—more than 100 semi-truckloads of packed fruit.
Our 2018 season is expected to start in March and is estimated to be closer to 3 million pounds. The harvest is lower than what we anticipated because some trees were lost to the winds before the fire, some were burned by the fire and some trees sank in mudslide mud. Then there’s the ongoing challenge of the Asian citrus psyllid, an invasive bug that kills the citrus and for which there’s no known antidote. And the possibility of running out of water, but that’s another story.
With few fruits per branch (as the crop load is smaller) the fruit has grown large. Folks familiar with Ojai Pixies know that small fruit often packs better flavor, but most citrus buyers are looking for larger sizes for their store displays. Ojai growers focus on flavor and freshness and will likely sell most of the small and medium fruit right here in the tri-county area and ship the premium large fruit to buyers throughout the country.
Enjoy the Ojai Pixie season—it will come and go quickly in 2018!
Ojai Pixies are available at the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market, Rainbow Bridge and Westridge Market in Ojai, A&F Country Market in Ventura and at specialty grocers Gelson’s, Bristol Farms and Whole Foods Market.