In 1983 Jim Freimuth and Chris Nielsen founded Winterhaven Ranch with their purchase of 10 acres of Medjool Dates in the Bard Valley with an initial production of about 30,000 lbs. At that time, Chris Nielsen, trained in the field of accounting, was running his family business, Nielsen Citrus Products Co. which packages premium lemon and lime juice for the food service industry (www.nielsencitrus.com). Jim Freimuth was trained in the fields of engineering and business finance. That same year Chris and Jim had a unique opportunity to review some problems that a lemon citrus partnership was having. They had purchased lemon groves with forty acres of Medjool dates on them. Being lemon growers and not knowing much about dates they asked Chris and Jim to look into some problems they encountered regarding the dates. After completing this review it was determined that there was a unique opportunity to become involved with a little known but exciting product. This triggered Jim & Chris’ enthusiasm to enter into a new and exciting field resulting in their first 10 acre purchase of Medjool dates. Since this was a small parcel they decided that it was best to maintain their outside employment and start growing Medjool dates as a sideline.
Initially the market for Medjool dates was small and saturated with existing supplies, but with the formation of the Bard Valley Medjool Date Growers Association (BVMDGA) in 1986, an immense untapped market for Medjool dates was discovered. In response to the resulting market expansion, Winterhaven Ranch expanded its groves and in 1988 purchased 40 acres increasing annual production to about 250,000 lbs. Having embraced organic growing concepts early on, Winterhaven Ranch also became certified organic under California’s Organic Code in 1989.
In 1997 Oasis Date Gardens was added to the fold. At this time Jim left his engineering position to run Oasis Date Gardens and Winterhaven Ranch while Chris continued running Nielsen Citrus Products as well as continuing a substantial part time effort in both Winterhaven Ranch and Oasis Date Gardens operations.
Today, Winterhaven Ranch, along with its sister company, Oasis Date Gardens, annually produce about two million pounds of high quality organic Medjool dates, as well as a host of other varieties. Winterhaven Ranch and Oasis Date Gardens ship Medjool dates to not only the U.S. and Canada but to many countries in Europe and the Far East. Winterhaven Ranch and Oasis Date Gardens hold U.S. National Organic Program organic certification as well as organic certification in Canada and Europe. Jim and Chris’ commitment to quality extends to all aspects of their operation, including their dedication to excellence in customer service and assuring that date lovers have a consistent supply of Medjool dates throughout the year.
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