John and Patti Koman own the White Dove Farm in Santa Paula, a small town and agricultural hub in Southern California. Located about 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the farm grows passion fruit, a few avocado and lemon varieties, and guavas. Initially founded in 1938, the Komans became the property’s second owners in 1997. The farm is named after the white doves John’s father used to raise.
Instead of removing old lemon trees from the soil and destroying them, the Komans developed a unique way of planting new passion fruit vines around the lemons. Essentially, the farmers used the lemon trees as a trellis, which is typically a method of arranging wires and wooden posts to provide plants with structural support and train their shape. Instead, they grew the passion fruit side by side with the lemons, creating a symbiosis and stability for the young, budding trees and the older ones too.
John got the inspiration for his tree trellis concept when he went to a garden shop and bought a passion fruit vine. About a year after planting the vine under an elderly lemon tree, the passion fruit had completely overtaken the tree and was bearing a surprising amount of huge fruit. Using this inventive method, the Komans were able to expand their passion fruit production to one-and-a-half acres.
For many reasons, the FruitGuys recognizes that White Dove’s community farm is a like-minded business, doing what it can to sustain a healthy environment and grow delicious fruit at the local level. By supporting White Dove, it feels good to know that at least 10 acres of valuable, nutrient-rich land will not be mistreated with typical “slash and burn” farming methods.
In this fascinating video, John Koman recounts the history of his family farm, as well as the light-bulb moment that gave White Dove a way to grow healthy passion fruit vines without hurting their trees or soil. He also shows what an old lemon tree looks like before and after growing passion fruit around it. According to John, great-tasting passion fruit is wet, moist, heavy, and displays vibrant color contrast between the ripe insides and the creased skin. In fact, the best passion fruit may look unappealing at first glance, since it has a mushy and wrinkled quality. It might make it harder to sell in a market, but it doesn’t make it any less delicious.