J. Marchini Farms offers specialties for winter

11/17/2008 12:00:00 AM
Don Schrack


Marc Marchini, director of cost analysis and production for J. Marchini Farms Inc., Le Grand, Calif., holds a puntarella, one of the company’s specialty winter vegetables. The commodity’s leaves are discarded, and it is the base of the stalks that are used in soups and salads, Marchini says.

(Nov. 17, 1:20 p.m.) LE GRAND, Calif. — Florindo Marchini’s arrival in California dates back nearly a century. Four Marchini generations later, the Italian roots are obvious in the inventory of winter vegetables available from J. Marchini Farms Inc.

The company’s signature crop is radicchio.

“It’s really our flagship commodity,” said Marc Marchini, director of cost analysis and production for the San Joaquin Valley grower-shipper.

It is the specialty vegetables, however, that garner most of the attention as the winter season approaches. Puntarella, also known as asparagus chicory, is a favorite in Canada, Marchini said. It is one of several specialty crops grown on acreage that Marchini calls the company’s experimentation garden.

“We’ve had this garden on this land — a summer garden and a winter garden — for more than 50 years,” Marchini said.

The puntarella harvest began in early November and continues into January, he said. The commodity’s leaves are discarded, and the base of the stalks are used in soups and salads, Marchini said. As with all of the company’s vegetables, J. Marchini Farms sells puntarella to wholesalers, many of which focus on high-end restaurants, he said.

The company’s vegetables are sold under the Joe’s Premium Vegetables label, a tribute to Joe Marchini, Marc Marchini’s grandfather who remains active in the company.

“He’s not out here every day, but he makes sure he knows what’s going on and that we know he knows,” the younger Marchini said.

In 1960, Joe Marchini joined Giampaoli-Marchini Co., the tomato grower-shipper his father and a partner formed years earlier. He left the company in 1987 to found Marchini Bros. Inc., the forerunner of J. Marchini Farms.

His son, Jeff Marchini, the company’s operations manager, followed Joe into the business, as did Jeff Marchini’s sons, Marc, 25, and production manager Nic, 23.

Specialized growing

The company offers Tuscan cabbage, which has broad, dark green leaves that grow upright, year round.


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