“We broke ground on our new greenhouses in Amado, near Nogales, in Arizona,” Anthony Totta, director of business development for Wholesum Family Farms Inc., better known as Wholesum Harvest, in Nogales, AZ, told The Produce News. “We purchased land on the U.S. side to duplicate the glass greenhouse acreage of our Mexico farm. The Arizona facility will start with 12 acres in its first phase, with up to 60 acres planned through expansions in the future.”
Mr. Totta added that the company will be harvesting its first crop at the new Arizona greenhouse in the fall of 2012.
Wholesum Harvest indicated that the demand for organics continues to increase, and was increasing even during the worst of the economic downturn.
“Even without changes in prices, we are experiencing consumers moving to organics,” said Mr. Totta. “Certainly the rate of increase is affected by the price differential between organics and conventional produce leveling off, and as that happens we expect even more consumers to embrace organics. Our organic growth pattern has been at 20 percent every year for more than the past decade.”
He added that increases are on all of the company’s products, but that cherry and Roma tomatoes-on-the-vine are enjoyed particularly strong demand growth.
Wholesum Harvest is a third-generation family farm that has produced wholesome food for 80 years. The family pioneer, Miguel Crisantes Gatzionis, migrated from Greece to Mexico in the 1920s and started farming in Sinaloa, Mexico, in 1930. The company has handled organic items since 1990.
Its primary organic products are greenhouse grown tomatoes, peppers and seedless cucumbers. In its shadehouses Wholesum Harvest grows organic hard and soft squashes, hard squashes, bell peppers, cucumbers and eggplant. It also produces organic mangos.
Wholesum Harvest’s organic tomato line is comprised of Roma and cherry tomatoes-on-the-vine, cherry, grape and beefsteak tomatoes. It produces in Mexico, Arizona and in California. Its customers are small and large chain retailers, wholesalers, foodservice operators and industrial operations across North America, primarily in the United States.
“We are all about sustainable farming,” said Mr. Totta. “We use thermal blankets to keep the greenhouses warm at night, and we sterilize and recycle the water that we use. Our fertilizers are all natural. People in general are looking for healthy food, and that’s what we provide.”
Mr. Totta said that the trend of the consumer to buy more local organics helps Wholesum Harvest, as it does the entire organic industry.
“Success breeds success,” Mr. Totta said. “Local grown organic supply has many gaps at this point for retailers and foodservice operators. It is there, but spotty. We are collaborating with those producers in order to assist them in the cause.”
The company employs 350 people who work every day, and who represent about 90 families that are supported year round. The company supports its employees with childcare services and education.
Mr. Totta said that cool weather has affected the early season volumes.
“But in mid-January it was beginning to level off,” he said. “We have more produce coming in off our crops now.”
Chef Tony assists Wholesum Harvest in creating recipes that incorporate the company’s fresh produce. Mr. Totta said that the company’s web site, www.wholesumharvest.com, now provides many fantastic recipes.