Tom BurfieldDavid Weinstein, head buyer at Heath & Lejeune Inc., leads members of California Certified Organic Farmers on a tour of the company's facilities in Commerce, Calif., April 11.COMMERCE, Calif. — Members of Santa Cruz-based California Certified Organic Farmers say they got a lot out of an April 11 tour of the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market and the Heath & Lejeune facilities nearby.
Enrique Aramburo works with his father, Javier, at Rancho Todo Natural in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, which ships organic mangoes and other items.
“My dad thought it would be a very good idea to come here,” Aramburo said.
He found the warehouses “pretty amazing.”
“Everything is (temperature) controlled,” he said.
At home, mangoes are harvested then shipped out of the packinghouse, he said.
“I had never been in this side of the business.”
Bruce Kelsey, owner of Kingsburg Citrus Management, McFarland, Calif., has been farming since 1954, when he graduated from high school, but he just started in the organic business a few years ago.
“It’s worked out pretty good,” he said.
Kelsey joined the tour because, “I realize I need to learn more about what’s going on and where the organic product that I produce ends up.”
He was impressed with what he saw.
“It was colorful, it was clean, everybody knew what they were doing,” he said.
Martha Zavala, purchasing and sales representative for California Specialty Farms, Los Angeles, said the market is a great place for local customers to come in and buy, but she had a suggestion.
“It would be fantastic if we had a company within the market that had more than one or two (organic) items – that had a greater variety and had more options available for the businesses and customers who come in and buy organics,” she said. “That’s an area where the market can really grow and expand and be better.”
Dan Iwata, a compliance consultant for Ecopia Farms in Campbell, Calif., said the tour was his first experience with the market.
“I was like a sponge,” he said. “I wanted to absorb everything.”
Iwata said much of what he saw at Heath & Lejeune can be applied to the Northern California-based company where he works in food safety compliance.
“I learned valuable information about (Heath & Lejeune) from the owners,” he said.
The tour was one of a variety of educational programs CCOF offers for farmers and packers/handlers, said Jessy Becket, foundation program coordinator.