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COMPANY PROFILES

Murakami continues hand-sorting tradition for assured quality
Although technology continues to usher in new automation to the onion industry with rapid-fire regularity, some aspects of customer service are literally best left in the hands of the shippers, according to Grant Kitamura, general manager of Murakami Produce in Ontario, OR. “Our harvest is now primarily automated, but we still hand sort,” Kitamura said in early September. “Nothing beats the human eye in determining size, shape and color of onions. Auto sorting... Read more
Local produce demand is the strength of the fresh cranberry marketing program of Mike Pirrone Produce. The firm, which is based in Capac, MI, sells cranberries to Great Lakes states, noted Joe Pirrone, a salesman for the firm. Pirrone’s cranberry brands are “Michigan Cranberry” and “Great Lakes Cranberry.” “The big thing we are doing is selling local cranberries,” said Pirrone. “Everyone thought cranberries were only sold by big marketers. Now at Thanksgiving time... Read more
Western Fresh waits for ‘proper sugars’ to ensure great-tasting kiwifruit
As with many commodities, the California kiwifruit season is running early this year. But Chris Kragie, deciduous fruit manager at Western Fresh Marketing in Madera, CA, is of the opinion that some shippers are pushing to get the fruit off the vines and in the market before it is really ready. “We are still running Chilean product” and will continue to do so through the month of September, Kragie told The Produce News Sept. 3. “We will start packing California... Read more
Atlanta’s Nickey Gregory Co. heading into SEPC Fall Conference with momentum
More is changing at Atlanta’s Nickey Gregory Co. than the season. Heading into the Southeast Produce Council Fall Conference Sept. 25-28, the company is leveraging a decade of continuous growth for a next-level leap in the region’s produce industry. “Nickey has done extraordinary things in the last decade to build this company and position it for next-level greatness,” said Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Andrew Scott, who recently joined the... Read more
Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo in the process of completing major renovation of L.A. facility
“We will soon be completing a major renovation of our Los Angeles distribution and repacking warehouse to provide better customer service, cold chain management and space utilization,” said Scott Albertson, senior director of sales and marketing for Jacobs Farm/Del Cabo, headquartered in Pescadero, CA. Jacobs Farm was a successful organic farming operation in 1985, when longtime organic farmers and owners of the company, Larry Jacobs and Sandra Belin, were confident... Read more
Demand continues on an upward climb  for organics from Phillips Mushroom Farms
Kevin Donovan, national sales manager for Phillips Mushroom Farms in Kennett Square, PA, told The Produce News that the company’s organic line of mushrooms is really gaining ground in demand and that customers are looking for more organic products on retail shelves at their grocery stores. “Consumers are really helping to push this growth,” said Donovan. “In years past — since organics really became better known — retailers felt that the category had to have a... Read more
Wholesum Family Farms Fair Trade products enjoying strong demand
Fair Trade-certified products have become a very positive “hot issue” for Wholesum Family Farms, according to Anthony Totta, a consultant for the firm. “The retailers interested in product like this are accelerating,” he said. “This is very good for us, our farm workers and our customers who are offering this to consumers.” Wholesum Family Farms, which is owned by the Crisantes family, has for many years carried an interest in the environment and its workers.... Read more
“Today, as Village Farms celebrates 25 years in business, it makes us very proud to have built a foundation that will enable future generations to benefit from high-quality, sustainable, safe and fresh premium quality hydroponic vegetables,” Michael DeGiglio, president and chief executive officer of Village Farms LLC, , told The Produce News. Despite having hurdled a major crisis in recent years, the Heathrow, FL-based company’s foundation remains solid. On May... Read more
Val Verde Vegetable Co. Inc., a McAllen, TX-based grower-shipper operation founded more than 25 years ago on land farmed by the Schuster family for 80 years, has returned to an all-Schuster management team. Frank Schuster Sr. came to the Rio Grande Valley from his native Austria in 1935 and quickly developed a prosperous farming and ranching operation as well as becoming a leader in the Texas produce industry. His son, Frank Schuster Jr., took over the company... Read more
Abasto Properties LLC, a sister company of Abasto Corp., which has built and operates five wholesale markets in Mexico and South Texas, broke ground Dec. 31, 2013, on the San Antonio Wholesale Produce Market, and expects phase one to open in the spring of 2015. Fernando Narvaez, director of business development and sales for the company, told The Produce News on Aug. 27 that construction is on schedule and barring any unforeseen circumstances, the new market will... Read more
They do one thing and they do it well. That is the mantra preached by Mike Davis, who is co-owner of Tex-Mex Sales LLC, in Weslaco, TX, with his dad, Marvin Davis. “We have onions from January through August,” said the younger Davis. During that time period the company grows its own onions in Mexico, Texas and New Mexico. “We do source some onions in the fall (from August through December) for several of our customers, but they are not our own.” Davis said the... Read more
It is no secret that the Texas citrus industry has been shrinking over the past couple of decades as decreased acreage and consolidation has led to a smaller industry with fewer players. Lone Star Citrus Growers, headquartered in Mission, TX, is on a trajectory headed in the opposite direction. Vice President of Sales Trent Bishop, one of the founders of the firm in 2007, said that when the company opened its doors it was the first new shipper built from the ground... Read more
Even though the produce office of United Supermarkets is almost 800 miles away from the grapefruit groves of South Texas, the citrus is still a local buy for shoppers, and they love it. Darvel Kirby, director of produce for United Supermarkets, which has 65 stores under five banners, said Texans are very proud of their state and very loyal to the products grown or made there. “For us ‘locally grown’ is anything that comes from Texas and our customers love it,”... Read more
“Our Texas facility is currently in its phase three expansion and scheduled for completion by year’s end,” said Ronnie Cohen, vice president of sales for Vision Import Group, headquartered in River Edge, NJ. “The addition will give us the space we need to provide our customers with increased just-in-time services,” he continued. “Basically we’ll be doing what we’ve been doing, but with increased efficiencies and added abilities.” Cohen explained that the “Vision... Read more
With its several acquisitions over the past few years, Paramount Citrus is the dominant player in the Texas citrus industry, now controlling more than 10,000 acres and about 75 percent of the deal. David Krause, president of the firm, which has its global headquarters in Delano, CA, and its Texas headquarters in Mission, TX, said both sweet Texas red grapefruits and Texas oranges make up the firm’s offerings from that part of the world. “We sell our oranges and... Read more
PHARR, TX — Texas has gone through some big changes during the past decade, particularly South Texas, which has shifted from primarily an area focused on agriculture to one that incorporates both agriculture and commerce. Add to that its location between two nations, and you have a recipe for great potential for companies that are able to take advantage of the opportunities. Ruiz Sales is one of those companies. Richard Ruiz, president of the Pharr-based distributor... Read more
International Citrus & Produce, which is headquartered in Burlingame, CA, but has a substantial presence in the Texas citrus deal, had a very good year and expects more of the same for the 2014-15 season. President J.B. Cutsinger said he has been selling Texas citrus for more than 35 years and, though it has changed tremendously over the years, it is still an excellent deal with an excellent reputation. “When I started [selling] in 1976, the deal had over... Read more
On this day in late August, Don Ed Holmes, owner and president of The Onion House, which is located almost as far south in Texas as you can go, could be found more than 1,300 miles north in Olathe, CO. “I’m up here checking out the sweet onions on the Western Slope,” said Holmes, speaking of the geographic region in Colorado defined as west of the Continental Divide. It’s the same area that produces Colorado’s well-known Olathe sweet corn. “We’ve had this deal... Read more
Christopher Ranch grateful for good 2014 garlic crop
Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, CA, was founded over 50 years ago. The company introduced its organic line in 1997. Patsy Ross, vice president of marketing for the company, said that its line of organic products has grown consistently since then. “Today our organic line includes numerous options in fresh, peeled and jarred categories,” said Ross. “And we offer organic shallots, also in fresh, peeled and jarred options, organic elephant garlic, organic ginger, organic... Read more
A love of food and desire to be exploratory lead Noah Robbins to create his new company, Ark Foods, one year ago. Based in Brooklyn, NY, Ark Foods is focusing its energy on growing the shishito pepper, which has garnered a strong reputation in eateries around the country. “I am always looking for different vegetables and discovered them at a restaurant in New York,” Robbins, the company’s chief executive officer, told The Produce News. Ark Foods is currently growing... Read more