(Dec. 20) CASTROVILLE, Calif. — Buyers this winter will see more rapini and artichoke production in the desert from Ocean Mist Farms, as well as new packaging and labels on several products.
The company also planned for a promotion on winter frost-kissed artichokes and has begun putting diagrams showing how to prepare artichokes on tray packs of artichokes.
And those looking for green onions, fennel, cardone and asparagus will be dealing with a new salesman. Jeff Post joined Ocean Mist on Oct. 28, returning to the company where he worked right out of college more than five years ago.
“I worked in several departments back then, so I understand the quality of the products. I know the growing areas, and I’ve packed the vegetables,” Post said. “But there was never an opening in sales, which was my goal.”
In the intervening years, he’s worked at River Ranch Fresh Foods and Cimino Bros. Produce, both in Salinas. A fourth-generation Monterey Peninsula resident, Post is in the California Ag Leadership Program. A black belt, he also teaches karate and volunteers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Ocean Mist boosted its desert rapini acreage by 30% and its desert artichoke acreage by “a good amount,” said Maggie Bezart, vice president of marketing and sales. The company probably will sell 20,000 boxes of rapini out of the desert this year.
Ocean Mist has found higher sales for bunched rapini this fall thanks in large part to a new consumer-friendly skirt featuring the Ocean Mist wave pattern, as well as preparation information and a recipe.
“We’ve been breeding our own rapini to increase quality,” Bezart said. “Customers are interested in it.”
Ocean Mist has begun banding its celery with Universal Product Codes and Price Look-Up numbers.
Ocean Mist also has introduced spinach in redesigned 2½-pound bags based on the success of its 10-ounce zippered bags. The packaging has both Spanish and English on it, and a Canadian version has English and French.
The company also has introduced head lettuce in twin-packed poly bags.
Planning for the possibility that frost might affect the artichoke crop, Ocean Mist took to the media — an article in the January edition of Better Homes & Gardens magazine features the frost-kissed artichokes.
Frost can hit artichoke-growing areas in Castroville, Coachella and Oxnard anytime from late October to April. The frost gives the artichokes a bronze color but does not affect the eating quality, and Bezart wanted to make sure consumers know that.
“Every year we say we may not get a frost, but every year we do, so we decided to get ahead of it and educate the public,” Bezart said.
But it’s warm weather, rather than frost, that has helped the desert artichokes this year. Ocean Mist started harvesting desert artichokes Dec. 12, when they do so normally at the end of the month, Bezart said.