Farmer of the Month: Bianca Kaprielian of Fruit World

Bianca Kaprielian of Fruit World with citrus
Bianca Kaprielian, CEO of Fruit World

At 9 a.m. on February 3, 2024, swimmers lined up on the shore of the San Francisco Bay. The chilly water beckoned, droplets leaping up and causing shivers. Then — splash! They dove in and surged forward. 

That dramatic moment kicked off a 24-Hour Relay Swim. From 9 a.m. February 3 through 9 a.m. February 4, more than 50 swimmers from five teams braved the bay’s waters. They swam in shifts of 30 minutes or more fueled by coffee, hot chocolate, and snacks — including two cases of organic Murcott tangerines, freshly harvested from Fruit World in Reedley, CA.

Swimming With Citrus

24-Hour Relay Swimmer holding a Murcott tangerine from Fruit World
A 24-Hour Relay swimmer holding a Murcott tangerine from Fruit World

The tangerines arrived at the relay thanks to swimmer and FruitGuys partner Pia Hinckle.  

“I think I ate one after each swim,” said Pia, who swam six times for her team, The Octopod, in 24 hours. “They were bright, sweet, and delicious. Just the thing needed to warm you up after swimming in the middle of the night when it was dark, cold, and stormy.” 

A few days after the relay, The FruitGuys sat down with Bianca Kaprielian, the CEO of Fruit World, to talk about it. 

“My wife has done the Alcatraz Swim before and that is intense, but what Pia does is just mind-blowing to me. I’m cold thinking about it!” Bianca said. “… Between the computer work and the farm work, we’re removed from what actually happens to our fruit after it leaves our hands. It’s always fun to hear about where it’s going and that people enjoy it.” 

A Season of Wild Weather

Fruit World markets and sells fruit grown by more than a half-dozen family farms in California’s Central Valley, including one that has been in Bianca’s family for generations. They offer organic and conventional citrus, grapes, stone fruit, pomegranates, persimmons, and dry-farmed tomatoes. 

Bianca Kaprielian of Fruit World with citrus
Bianca Kaprielian, CEO of Fruit World

The FruitGuys has partnered with Fruit World to sell their delicious fruit to schools and businesses since 2017. We feature their mandarins, navel oranges, apricots, and grapes in our Northern California boxes in season.

When The FruitGuys spoke to Bianca, she told us that stories like Pia’s help keep her motivated in tough farming years like this one. 

“This has been a challenging citrus season because, after the excessive rains last year and then the really elongated heat, the crop is down,” she said. 

Fruit World produce loaded in a pickup
Fruit World produce loaded in a pickup

Fruit World’s citrus trees have produced just 40-60% of their typical yield so far this season. Bianca said the trees used the extra moisture for foliage growth rather than bloom and fruit growth. The summer heat also slowed down the fruit’s coloring process, causing complications for early-season sales. 

“An orange can be ripe and green, and in many places in the world, they eat citrus mostly green. But in the U.S. that’s not how people expect the fruit,” Bianca explained. 

To ensure its early-season fruit meets expectations for what it “should” look like, Fruit World “colors it up” by exposing it to ethylene gas in the packing house — a common and safe industry practice. Because of the hot summer, they had to rely on this costly tactic for longer than usual.  

Still, Bianca is facing the challenges with a smile. She told The FruitGuys that this unusual year has had some unexpected benefits — like extra-flavorful Tango mandarins. 

The Perfect Time to Tango

Fruit World citrus on top of a box
Fruit World’s delicious citrus

“Historically, Tango mandarins have not been one of my favorite fruits, but they have a really good flavor this year,” Bianca said. “They’re always high-sugar, but this year the acid has stayed high [too].” 

That balance means that when you bite into a Fruit World Tango, it releases a sweet-tart explosion of juice. Bianca said:

“It hits differently, it’s more complex, a lot happening at once! That’s what I think of as good flavor: It’s not just one note.” 

In addition to the wonder crop of Tangos, Pia and her fellow swimmers found Fruit World’s organic Murcott tangerines particularly delicious this year. 

Hanging On to ‘Grower Optimism’ 

Bianca Kaprielian, CEO of Fruit World in the groves
Bianca in the groves

Life as a citrus farmer isn’t easy. In addition to low yields, Bianca and her team at Fruit World are facing inflation that has increased the cost of labor and materials while decreasing consumer demand for their fruit. Still, Bianca maintains what she calls “that grower optimism.” She credits her perspective to her 94-year-old grandfather. 

“We still get to chat about work, and I think talking to him — and my dad — is grounding because they’ve seen so many cycles,” she said. “… There are periods where things are great and periods where things are hard. You always hope that the hard periods are short. I think that while we’re dealing with different challenges, what is the same is there are ups and downs. Really leaning on people who have been doing this much longer than me for that grounding is healthy and helps me keep that perspective.” 

Bianca and Jelly at a Fruit World farm in the groves
Bianca (right) and her sister Angelica in the groves

Coming Soon to Fruit World: Avocado Trees!

With her eye on brighter days ahead, Bianca is pushing Fruit World into a new frontier. She and her team are currently working to add GEM® avocado trees to their commercial nursery. 

“The climate [in Central California] isn’t exactly right for the Hass avocado which is the most popular, but with the new GEM® avocado developed by the university system is a little more tolerant of heat and cold,” Bianca said. “… We’re growing the nursery stock to sell the trees commercially and also plant some of our own.”

To learn more about Bianca’s family farm and how Fruit World got started, check out this FruitGuys story from 2021. 

Recent Articles

Subscribe to our Newsletter

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Stay Fruitful!

Get your weekly dose of the latest fruit info and exclusive updates.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
The FruitGuys logo