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Gold Coast and Babé Farms set to move into new Santa Maria facility

The two prominent farming operations in Santa Maria, CA, that joined forces more than a year ago to build a new processing and shipping facility for their respective harvests are now under the same roof at Fresh Venture Foods.

Ron Burk, chief executive officer of Gold Coast Packing, and Judy Lundberg, CEO of Babé Farms, undertook the cooperative effort in October 2011. The goal was to mutually benefit from an economy of operation in every aspect of packing and shipping their respective harvests.FVF-JanFresh Ventures Foods, a 75,000-square-foot processing and shipping plant in Santa Maria, CA, is a cooperative development of Babé Farms and Gold Coast Packing, which moved their respective farming operations here at the end of February. The design allows for expansion to 105,000 square feet. Gold Coast moved its operation to Fresh Venture Foods in December, while Babé Farms was set to move Feb. 24.

The new facility's design and modernized systems allow for future growth and ensure the continuance of the product quality and unsurpassed food-safety standards the two companies have established over the past three decades.

The 75,000-square-foot plant, with a five-bay loading dock, is equipped for receiving, cooling, cleaning, sorting and packaging the value-added products of its co-owners. Overall, the building also improves the operational efficiency and working environment for the two companies' personnel.

A combined work force of 150 will operate two shifts over six days per week. A second building phase, to accommodate future growth, will bring capacity to 105,000 square feet and double the number of bays to 10.

"Fresh Venture Foods is basically a cooperative effort between two old friends with similar goals, standards and needs," Mr. Burk said in a press release.

Timing also played a role, according to Ms. Lundberg, who added, "Both of our companies were working at capacity, in outdated facilities, on multiple sites. We had to do something and we decided to do it together."

Mr. Burk and Ms. Lundberg agreed that their mutual desire to maximize customer service guided every plan and decision in the development of Fresh Venture Foods. As a result, they anticipate the joint venture will provide a 50 percent increase in production, as well as an improved turnaround time from the field to their respective customers' warehouses.

"This kind of efficiency is ideal for those of us promoting the benefits of fresh produce," Ms. Lundberg said in the press release.

Fresh Venture Foods will only process orders for the co-owners, Mr. Burk said in the press release. Babé and Gold Coast will maintain their individual identities and sales and marketing personnel. The new building has 8,000 feet of office space for the separate administrative functions of the two companies.

Cost savings are also found at the loading dock. Customers that Gold Coast Packing and Babé Farms have in common will be able to consolidate loading, which will reduce delivery time and shipping costs on a year-round basis. Other trucks picking up in the valley will also be encouraged to take advantage of consolidation opportunities at the new location.

Gold Coast Packing has a primary product line of value-added broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, washed and ready-to-use cilantro, spinach, parsley and customized packs that are marketed primarily to foodservice clientele.

Babé Farms is a pioneer in specialty vegetables, growing over 70 different varieties of baby root vegetables, baby cauliflower, specialty greens, baby head lettuces and seasonal specialties for foodservice and retail.

Both companies offer year-round supply and have operated in the fertile Santa Maria Valley on California's central coast for three decades.