Awards highlight Texas produce eventSAN ANTONIO — One of the last West Texas vegetable growers and a well-known face of equipment and citrus in the Rio Grande Valley garnered this year’s Texas Vegetable Association and Texas Citrus Mutual honors.

The awards were presented Aug. 8 at the Boots and Bling Ball at the Texas Produce Convention in San Antonio’s Hill Country.

Known for his strong commitment to marketing and sales, Sunburst Farms’ Bernie Thiel earned the Mission-based TVA’s Award of Merit.

“Bernie is one of the few vegetable farmers left in the harsh environment of West Texas,” said Ray Prewett, TVA president. “We tend to laugh at Bernie for having a phone in his ear all the time, but that is the way he stays on top of the market and in touch with his customers. You can laugh, but there is no doubt that marketing is one of Bernie’s keys to success.”

Awards highlight Texas produce eventAt one time there were more than 35 packing sheds in the area, and only two remain, Thiel said.

“This industry is a very tough industry to be in and survive as long as we have in West Texas,” he said.

Texas Citrus Mutual’s annual Special Award went to Earl Neuhaus of Weslaco-based Neuhaus & Co.

Neuhaus grew up in the Rio Grande Valley area growing cotton and went into the implement business. He also is a sugarcane and citrus farmer committed to technologically advanced growing practices, Prewett said during the presentation.

Known for being quiet and insightful, Neuhaus’s implement business grew to three locations, but he maintains a strong commitment to the success of Texas citrus. “It should be no surprise to anyone that Earl thinks like a farmer because he is a farmer,” Prewett said. “Earl is bullish on Texas citrus and he is using the latest in drip irrigation technology.”