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Soft squash from Hermosillo gets under way

POBLADO MIGUEL ALEMAN, SONORA, MEXICO -- Springtime soft squash from the Hermosillo area is under way.

The first zucchini of the season rolled down the grading line March 5 at Sonora Queen. Esteban Coppel, a manager, said his first harvest was on March 2. This is in the La Costa growing district 60 miles west of Hermosillo. Coppel expects to ship zucchini and yellow squash until May 1, “depending on weather and bugs.”Carlos-Iberri-Estaban-CoppeFriendly competitors Carlos Iberri and Esteban Coppel greet each other in Iberri's grey squash field. Iberri is a third-generation grower at Agrocir, which is located six miles from the Sea of Cortez. Coppel's family operation is about 40 miles to the north near the village of Poblado Miguel Aleman.

Closer to the Sea of Cortez in the La Costa district, Agrocir S.A. de C.V. began its soft squash harvest on Feb. 26. Agrocir planted a week before Sonora Queen.

On both farms, squash crops were rapidly gaining size. The quality and condition were excellent. As harvesters caught up with early-bloomers, a size consistency would be coming into the packinghouses within a day or two.

Carlos Iberri III is the production and sales manager at Agrocir, which his grandfather started 50 years ago.

“It has been a very challenging year,” Iberri said. “It was extremely hot in December, January and February. And then in early March we started winter.”

The nights of March 3-4 were just above freezing and the region faced freezing temperatures on the night of March 5, as well.

Normally, Hermosillo is beyond the threat of freezes in early March, but as Agrocir pickers cut grey squash on March 5, they worked around white crop covers that were laid to the side of the plants. Iberri said the evening forecast wasn’t severe enough to disrupt harvest and invest vast labor in covering up the squash plants for the night.

At Sonora Queen, squash leaves were somewhat burned by brushing against protective covering in cold weather, but Coppel said the fruit was unharmed.

Agrocir farms in three different regions in Sonora: Carbo, Guaymas and here at La Costa, where the farm’s temperatures are moderated by the ocean. In total, Agrocir has about 5,800 acres of production.

Including all its farms, Agrocir ships zucchini, yellow squash and grey squash from October to June.

Agrocir packs most of its vegetables in the Fresh Farms brand, shipping to Fresh Farms LLC, based in Nogales. Divine Flavor LLC, also based in Nogales, handles Agrocir’s Persian cucumbers. Other Agrocir distributors are Baloian Farms, Crown Jewels and Eagle Eye. All three of these companies have distribution from Nogales.

Sonora Queen is located near the village of Pablado Miguel Aleman. Sonora Queen is the brand name used by a partnership that owns the Dos Triangulos group, which involves production and packing of soft squash, hard squash, organic oranges, pecans and grapes. The firm’s vegetables are marketed by J-C Distributing Inc. in Nogales. Crown Jewels Produce Co., based in Fresno, CA, markets the firm’s grapes.

Beyond squash, Agrocir grows shade house cucumbers and Persian cucumbers from October to June; red and green Bell peppers from November to June; and has fall and spring deals in cantaloupes, seedless and mini-watermelons. Agrocir’s spring melon deal will end this spring in late June.

The firm also grows pecans and organic Valencia oranges. This year’s Valencia harvest begins in the week of March 12 and will last until the end of May.

Iberri said Agrocir exports half its production offshore. Kabocha squash mostly goes to Japan. Other export items are zucchini and organic oranges.