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Duncan Family Farms, a grower of a wide selection of organic produce, is distributing organic strawberries this winter for the first time under its own label.

Duncan, which grows strawberries in Goodyear, AZ, makes the claim of being the only organic commercial strawberry grower in Arizona.Duncan-Family-Farms-Strawberries

According to the company, great strawberries start with high-quality soil, and the foundation of Duncan Family Farms’ agronomic practice is its composting program, which aids in building up the biodiversity of the soils and water retention. Local dairies, horse racing tracks, golf courses and municipalities bring their green waste to Duncan’s facilities to be turned into compost.

“After our strawberries went out under the Dole label last year, we noticed tremendous interest from our local customers,” Patty Emmert, specialty crop manager at Duncan Family Farms, said in a press release. “They loved the berries but really wanted to see a local brand on them, so that’s when we decided to move production to the Duncan Family Farms label.”

Although its strawberry program is in its third year, this marks the first time Duncan will be distributing organically grown strawberries under the Duncan Family Farms label. After a great test run in the first year of growing berries in the West Valley near Phoenix, the company ramped up its efforts in 2015 and is now ready to distribute under its own label this year and into the future.

“We’ve got a really unique product that’s perfect for the local market since we can pick our berries at the optimal harvest point and deliver them to the market with significantly reduced shipping times,” Emmert added in the press release. “It’s a great opportunity for all retail outlets within the Phoenix metropolitan area, and even the state of Arizona, to profile a local berry and take advantage of product that’s going to have superior flavor and shelf life.”

Duncan Family Farms plans to start harvesting the berries in mid- to late December and expects harvest to last until either the end of March or beginning of April, depending on the weather. The organic strawberries under the Duncan Family Farms label will be available in retail stores throughout Arizona.

Ahold Delhaize announced its Better Together strategy, which will focus on three key pillars: funding growth in supermarkets, eCommerce and smaller formats; saving for its customers by buying better, operating smarter and wasting less; and investing in its customer proposition, including getting fresher and healthier.ahold

The Better Together strategy "builds naturally on our combined strong performance as well as the strong foundations of the local brands in our group," Dick Boer, chief executive officer of Ahold Delhaize, said in a press release. "Guided by this common compass, we will continue to improve our family of brands to be a better place to shop, a better place to work, and a better neighbor, every day. We are meeting the needs of customers today and anticipating those of tomorrow, by providing more value, quality and convenience."

The company said Food Lion continues to win with its Easy, Fresh & Affordable strategy and will roll it out to 160 additional stores in 2017, bringing the total to 540, or 55 percent of total sales at the brand.

Additionally, Ahold USA is building momentum with its Heading Northeast strategy as its investments in pricing, service and quality pay off with gains in customer perception and sales volume increases.

Ahold Delhaize confirmed its commitment to its eCommerce businesses by meeting the growing customer demand for online grocery solutions. The company said it hopes to double net online consumer sales by 2020.

"Our success as a business is closely tied to how well we meet the needs of multiple stakeholders," the company said in the release. "Ahold Delhaize is prioritizing three areas where we can have the most impact on the lives of our stakeholders and, in doing so, become a stronger, more sustainable company: promoting healthier eating, reducing food waste, and creating healthy and inclusive workplaces for the 375,000 associates at our brands."

All brands will set clear targets in the areas of product integrity, sourcing, tackling climate change, and taking care of the company's employees. Ahold Delhaize said it will provide more details in 2017.

“Our integration is on track and we have a clear plan to deliver €500 million in net synergies in 2019," Boer said in the release. "We are convinced more than ever that our merger is the right combination at the right time."

TAPACHULA, CHIAPAS — In Mexico, a long run of good growing weather extended at least toward mid-December.

Tropical fruit growers in Chiapas were enjoying abundant production as unseasonably hot weather boosted production of bananas, papayas and other crops.

The large Mexican independent banana company, Le Best Banana Supply Co. Inc., was packing an unusually high volume as was Le Best’s Tapachula papaya grower friend and neighbor, Agromod S.A. de C.V.CarmelitaOne of several Tapachula, Chiapas, banana packinghouses belonging to Le Best Banana Supply Co. Inc. was running a high volume on Dec. 2.

Tapachula mango grower Rafael Nava of the family business Nava Co. said his mango harvest wouldn’t begin seasonal production until late January.  

Up Mexico’s west coast, unusual Culiacan heat reached into the triple digits in early December. For Del Campo y Asociados S.A. de C.V., protected tomato production was strong, with harvest expected to begin in mid-December.  

On Dec. 5, Juan Jose Ley of Del Campo walked through a shadehouse on the firm’s headquarters property. Large green Beefsteak tomatoes would be coming off the vine in the next week or two. A nearby Del Campo packinghouse was running a low volume of crown-picked fruit that would be sold on the domestic market.

The Southeast Produce Council has announced that it will donate $10,000 to help residents in the recent wild fires of Gatlinburg and Sevier County in Tennessee.sepc

"One of the core values the SEPC was founded on is community," SEPC Executive Director David Sherrod said in a Dec. 6 press release. "We are dedicated to supporting our communities and helping those affected by tragedy however we can."

As wild fires spread across the Smoky Mountains last week, emergency service crews worked tirelessly to contain the flames that left hundreds of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed, and thousands of residents displaced, including some SEPC members.

"Our hearts go out to all of those who have been affected by these disastrous fires," stated Sherrod. "We pray that the structural rebuild is quick, but more importantly that emotional healing will be restored through faith."

Donations to help those affected by the fires can be made to the Gatlinburg Relief Fund.

Oxnard-based Mission Produce announced that the company has hired Brent Scattini as vice president of sales for North America. In this role, he will work with the domestic sales team in developing and implementing sales strategies in North America, managing client relationships, developing new business as well as overseeing day-to-day sales activities.Brent-ScattiniBrent Scattini

Prior to joining Mission, Scattini most recently served as vice president of sales and marketing for Gold Coast Packing in Santa Maria, CA, where he worked for the past six years. Prior to that he was director of sales for Grimmway Farms in Bakersfield, CA, for a decade.

According to Brian Miller, Mission’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, Scattini is an important addition based on the company’s growth strategies. “Brent brings us additional planning and management-level depth as Mission continues to grow. We just finished a record year, and we are adding sales management resources to stay ahead of our expected growth and keep the momentum rolling."

Mission’s market leadership position in avocados is what attracted Scattini to the position. “I’ve been impressed by what Mission has done over the years," he said. "Mission has the leadership position in the fast-growing avocado category, and I am extremely excited about the opportunity.”

“The addition to staff is a testament to our commitment to effectively serve our customer base," Steve Barnard, Mission president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "We have very aggressive growth plans globally, and the North American market still commands much of our attention. Adding a sales executive of Brent’s caliber to our growing team to focus on domestic business is an important step in our overall plans.”