With increased production of its colored bell peppers and squash this winter and plans to build a greenhouse for beefsteak tomatoes in 2014, Wholesum Family Farms is responding to continued demand for its organic products.
Volume is expected to be up 20% to 25% on the colored bells, zucchini, straight neck and yellow squash, said Ricardo Crisantes, general manager for Nogales, Ariz.-based Wholesum Family Farms. Production of other vegetables roughly equals last year.
The organic squash, cucumbers, euro cucumbers and eggplant started about Nov. 1 in protected agriculture growing areas in Culiacan, Mexico.
“By the first week in December we should start getting some roma tomatoes and more grape tomatoes,” Crisantes said.
Wholesum has also wanted to expand its organic beefsteak tomatoes. Plans have started to shape up, but timing has been an issue.
“We wish we could have done a little more organic beefsteak tomatoes, but it’s hard finding the time to put in another greenhouse,” he said.
“There’s a rate to grow and we didn’t want to push it,” he said.
“We had just opened a brand new facility last year and were thinking about putting in another greenhouse this summer for organic beefsteak but decided to delay.”
“Greenhouses are a great tool and they can do a lot of cool stuff, but they’re just infrastructure,” Crisantes said.
“What really makes a difference is the people, the quality of their work, from the crop workers all the way up to the agronomists. You really need an experienced team. If not, you just get very expensive tomatoes.”
“But now we feel confident that we’ve got the right people, so we’re pulling the trigger for this spring to start building a greenhouse to be ready by July 2014 to add capacity on organic beefsteak tomatoes.”
That facility is expected to be 3 hectares (8 acres) of greenhouse in Sonora, Mexico.
Some recent expansions at Wholesum developed greenhouse capacity in Amado, Ariz. But the postharvest infrastructure — sorting machines and boxes, for example — for beefsteak was already in place in Mexico.
Amado has focused on tomatoes on the vine since December 2011, when construction began on a 12-acre site that was part of a planned 60-acre project.
The grower-shipper expects demand for organic to keep rising.
“We continue to see demand for high quality organic production,” Crisantes said.
“When I came into the industry in the late 1990s, organics were the ugly duckling of the industry. Our quality was just a little bit off. Now whether it’s organic or conventional, it has to be No. 1 all the way. There’s no room for error.
“The reason for our continued expansion in this industry is that we’ve been able to come up in freshness, shelf life and quality of appearance. That’s our challenge and that’s also what I think with many years of trying we’ve been able to offer that to consumers.”