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Val Verde Vegetable growing healthy vegetables

 mcallen, tx — The entire produce category deserves its reputation for providing consumers with healthy products. But some items provide more nutritional benefits than others.

Frank Schuster, president of Val Verde Vegetable Co. Inc., is placing an emphasis on producing brassica family vegetables — cauliflower, beets, turnips, kale and kohlrabi. He said the variety is important to avoid soil-borne diseases by altering crops from year to year.

On his desk was the July 14 issue of TIME Magazine, which featured a story titled “Why Cauliflower Is the New ‘It’ Vegetable.”

vall-verdeFrank-Schuster-Rio-GrandeFrank SchusterAccording to Schuster, Val Verde produces more beets than any other produce company in South Texas. “They are finding all the health benefits on beets,” he said. These benefits include building endurance and helping athletes recover from strenuous exercise.

“We are seeing an increase in beet demand,” Schuster added.

Aligned with Val Verde’s emphasis on health, the company is increasing its organic production by 30 acres this season.

“Greens and cabbage are our forte,” Schuster continued. Val Verde is extending its shipping calendar and product mix this year with hard squash, including butternut, spaghetti and kabocha.

Val Verde will also be adding new organic crops to its line-up, including three kinds of kale, as well as Swiss chard and cilantro.

“We’re playing with other things to see what works and what doesn’t work,” he added.

The season’s beet sales were winding up when The Produce News spoke to Schuster on July 24. The previous week Val Verde greenhouses were planted with the first seeds of the fall vegetable season.

As far as market targets are concerned, Schuster said, “There is a big market in Texas but we need to go national. We ship greens into the Northeast because that’s where the people are.” For the nation’s retailers, “greens are not a big piece of the produce case. There is a lot of competition for that little bit of space. So, you do what you, and do it well” to meet the high level of competition.

Water supply

Schuster added that the biggest issue facing the Rio Grande Valley is water.

“Mexico is not sharing their water unless they are forced to” do so, Schuster said.

He explained that in 1944 the United States and Mexico signed a water treaty involving the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers. The United States “never failed to give Mexico their Colorado water.”

But Mexico’s major tributary to the Rio Grande, Rio Concho, is dammed, with little outflow.

The Mexicans, Schuster said, only release water from that dam during flood times, which the Rio Grande is already full. That water release only worsens flooding problems in South Texas. Schuster and other growers have farms and homes that border the Rio Grande in the McAllen area.

Schuster would like for NAFTA negotiations to enforce the 1944 treaty. “This is critical for agriculture, industry and the general population,” he said.

Schuster has seen firsthand that wildlife along the Rio Grande also suffers — and dies — through mismanagement of that water supply.

Schuster said water matters have not previously been part of the NAFTA agreement “but the issue needs to be addressed.”