(July 3, 6:05 p.m.) Harsh economics and escalating costs have taken their first victim in Salinas, Calif., with Mills Family Farms planning to discontinue operations July 5.
Roger Mills, executive vice president, and Dave Mills, who resigned his position as executive vice president in June, issued a statement July 3, saying the company will be inactive after July 5, as they attempt to restructure the company.
Company spokesman David Armanasco, president of Armanasco Public Relations, Monterey, Calif., said members of the family would not respond to questions from The Packer, and he didn’t say whether restructuring meant the company was selling land, facilities or equipment, or if it would return to distributing in the future.
A sister company that distributes Wholeaves, a single-leaf hand-torn product primarily for sandwiches and sold to retailers and foodservice operators, is still in operation.
“They still have their whole leaf business (Whole Leaf LLC) under Roger and Basil Mills, so they’re obviously not leaving farming, but Mills Family Farms is going inactive,” Armanasco said. “It’s a separate business and continues to operate.”
Whole Leaf LLC was originally formed in 1997, as a joint venture between Mills Distributing Co. and River Ranch Foods Inc., Salinas, to grow and ship a variety of whole leaf lettuce through The Great Northern Produce Co.
“Some employees will still be there to help them work through this,” Armanasco said. “They have decided to go inactive so they can continue to try and work with their current situation. They have been in touch with all of their customers, apprising them of the situation. Produce that is still in the fields will be shipped by other companies.”
“We appreciate our valued customers’ and vendors’ patience in the most trying times we’ve experience in our 50 years in business,” Basil Mills, president, said in a news release.
The company was established in 1958.
In addition to its Salinas headquarters, the family-owned company has at least three other operations in the area — Mivco Packing Co. LLC, Gem Vegetables Co. and Whole Leaf LLC, according to Red Book Credit Services, sister company of The Packer, and owned by Packer owner Vance Publishing Corp., Lincolnshire, Ill.
The company markets products under a number of brands, including Boss, King of Hearts, Broken Drum, Classy, Touch of Class and Mills Family Farms Wholeaves.
Mills also has distribution facilities in Bakersfield, Calif., and Center, Colo., along with California growing operations in Blythe, Brawley, El Centro, Holtsville and Huron, as well as Yuma, Ariz., according to Red Book.
“The agriculture industry is under a real crunch with inflation, and increasing costs in pesticides, fertilizers and fuel,” Jim Bogart, president and general counsel of the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California, Salinas, said in the release. “It’s not very much fun now. The Mills are good operators. They set a good example to a lot of people about what is the right thing to do. I look up to them and respect them.”