Wholesum Family Farms Inc. started November with its first harvest of organic tomatoes on the vine from a new 12-acre greenhouse site in Amado, Ariz.
It’s the first of five such partially enclosed facilities planned, which would take the total to 60 acres off Interstate 19 exit 48, south of Tucson. Construction began in December 2011. Initial plantings followed in August. It brought 60 new jobs to Amado.
“Right now it’s organic tomatoes, but up to a certain scale we would also like to introduce organic cucumbers, peppers and so on,” said Ricardo Crisantes, vice president of sales and marketing at Nogales, Ariz.-based Wholesum Family Farms.
It’s part of a locally grown — or regionally grown — push for the organics grower-shipper, which also sources out of California and Mexico, including field-grown.
“We’re working on a strategy of local for the Southwest U.S.,” Crisantes said. “In the organic movement, local is very important, especially in the summertime. The winter offering will complement our summer supplies.”
“Our main focus is to be a supplier of organic vegetables year-round,” he said. Crops grown in winter also include romas, beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes on the vine, grape tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant and squash.
The company’s greenhouse efforts also are supporting a new product: organic mixed heirloom tomatoes in a 10-pound size. Wholesum Family Farms offered them about five years ago but soon backed away.
“We’re introducing it again,” Crisantes said. “We’re moving it from field- to greenhouse-grown. That will give us the ability to come out with a year-round, consistent heirloom tomato. They’re fragile, and greenhouses are a big factor to having success with this program. We look forward to providing the industry with heirloom tomatoes that are full flavor and really colorful.”
The first pallets were already shipping by mid-October.
Wholesum Family Farms transitions from California to Mexico in November, starting with cucumbers, eggplant and zucchini. Green, red, yellow and orange bell peppers follow in December, and hard squash in January.
November also marks the first time that the grower-shipper will offer its entire organic line with Fair Trade certification. The certification was received this past summer.
Wholesum Family Farms partners include Mexican and Peruvian exporters of organic mangoes.