Posted 5/14/14 to the River News Herald
By Susan Whitesell
Elegant Beans and Beyond of Mohr-Fry Ranches was recently awarded a Producer “Snail of Approval” by Slow Food Sacramento, recognizing businesses producing locally unique and sustainable foods. Elegant Beans and Beyond has also been recognized by Slow Food USA for growing several dry bean varieties identified in the Ark of Taste catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction. You can see and taste the unique, subtle flavor of Elegant Beans and Beyond heirloom and exotic dry beans at the Slow Food Festival on June 21st.
Jerry Fry of Mohr-Fry Ranches has a long history of farming that extends back to the 1850s. Today, Mohr-Fry Ranches grows 12 different wine grape varieties, Lupin, and the Heirloom Beans. Mohr-Fry Ranches has grown Bing Cherries, Rainier Cherries, and Stevia. With Jerry, first cousin Chip Morris, farms several hundred acres and produces over 28 heirloom dry bean varieties on the sixth-generation family-owned and operated ranch.
That’s a lot of beans…
“95% of our [bean] business is wholesale,” says Jerry Fry. According to Chip, large food service companies, such as BiRite Foodservice Distributors and LA & SF Specialty, buy 2,000 pound totes that are repackaged in smaller amounts and resold to thousands of restaurants serviced by the distributor. Elegant Beans and Beyond heirloom and exotic dry beans are also available from Williams Sonoma, Whole Foods, their web site at www.elegantbeans.com, and soon at stores such as Raley’s, Bel Air and Nob Hill.
“Beans are no longer something that you slap on a plate with a taco.”
According to Jerry, “Beans are no longer something that you slap on a plate with a taco.” There is a lot of interest in heirloom dry beans, which have emerged as an exciting and versatile gourmet food. “The timing couldn’t be better. People are looking at healthy eating.” Their high protein content makes beans an excellent low-fat alternative. Beans are high in soluble fiber and gluten-free, which is especially important to many health-conscious consumers today.
Jerry and Chip saw the opportunity for heirloom dry beans in the mid-90’s but first had to work out the growing, cultivating and marketing kinks. Harvesting heirloom dry beans in 15 to 20 acre plots, each with different maturity cycles, required Mohr-Fry to buy their own harvester rather than harvesting commercially. The team also had to overcome obstacles to sorting and cleaning various size beans in smaller batches. According to Jerry, “Bean cooperatives run millions of pounds of beans through their processors.” To switch off and run 15,000 pounds of a specialized variety was inefficient and costly to Mohr-Fry, forcing them instead to hand polish and sort their own beans. To solve this problem, Mohr-Fry recently purchased a specialized optical sorter that can polish and sort thousands of pounds of beans per hour. In addition to their other responsibilities, Jerry, Chip and Chip’s wife Bobbie are also the Elegant Beans and Beyond marketing team responsible for promoting and educating buyers about the benefits of their unique heirloom and exotic bean varieties.
Elegant Beans and Beyond is one of several local producers featured at the June 21st Slow Food Festival. Chip Morris will also speak at the event. Tickets for the event are $25.00 and are available from the Slow Food Rio Vista web site at http://www.slowfoodriovista.org, online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/620291 or in town at Books Rio V, This N That, Pets 4 All, Galleria Bra Room and Brand You.