As a family owned grower, packer and shipping operation doing business out of Homestead, FL, tropicals is of utmost importance to Unity Groves, with its produce offerings representing the bulk of its business.
“It’s our main product. Something about us is that we’re really focused on growing in Florida, with very little imports,” said Louie Carricarte, president and owner of the company. “Our goal at Unity is to provide top-quality produce and services while maintaining the family values that have made us successful.”
Looking back on 2016, Carricarte said the crop was a little lighter than normal, but Unity is expecting a better crop in 2017 for most of its tropicals.
“Avocado for instance, we’re expecting a bumper crop,” he said. “The bloom we’re seeing looks good. Plus, it’s cyclical, and avocados are due to have a good crop. It’s been a couple of years since we’ve seen one.”
Other solid fruits this year will include mangos, mameys, guava and dragon fruit. For some of its other product, mainly lychee and longans, things aren’t looking as strong, but it shouldn’t have an impact on the overall season.
“We do about 150,000 bushels each year, but we’re expecting closer to 300,000 this year,” Carricarte said. “Everything we pick is out within two days.”
That’s just one of the secrets of the company’s success. Growth is another, and the company has installed more refrigeration capacity, bigger coolers and three new packing lines.
“You have to take care of the trees, weather is a big factor and you have to select them properly, cool them properly and make quick delivery,” Carricarte said. “Our loading dock is refrigerated and we keep the cold chain going.”
Unity continues to expand its acreage and in the past year has increased its land by almost 40 percent. It also increased its dragon fruit program and guava program on the growing side.
“People are becoming more familiar with these fruits,” he said. “People are trying them and stores are willing to give us a chance and put them on their shelves. It’s like mangos 20 years ago — no one knew what they were. I see dragon fruit really taking off in this way.”
Unity is also starting a Florida lime program, which Carricarte said has been non-existent for a long time.
“We’ve been planting the last 3-4 years and we expect production to start in June,” he said. “We see good things ahead for that, as well.”