Business updates: Southern California Strawberries

02/11/2011 02:03:36 PM
Tom Burfield

Orange County Produce expands its product line

Irvine, Calif.-based Orange County Produce has increased its strawberry acreage to more than 600 acres this season and plans to significantly expand its organic operation over the next year or so.

The company, which grows mostly strawberries and beans, also is getting back into heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cauliflower and other commodities, partner Matt Kawamura said. The company sells much of its product to local chains and farmers markets.

Matt Kawamura’s son Paul has graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business economics from New York University and has become the family’s fourth generation to work at Orange County Produce, Matt Kawamura said.

Also, partner A.G. Kawamura is returning to the firm after serving as secretary of the state’s food and agriculture department under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Fritz Koontz launches Santa Cruz Berry

After 16 years as a partner and marketing director for Watsonville, Calif.-based Beach Street Farms LLC, Fritz Koontz has launched a new company, Santa Cruz Berry Farming Co., based in Watsonville.

The new grower-shipper will focus on organic strawberries but also will grow conventional berries, Koontz said. Koontz is a partner with researcher Beth Crandell in Kanaka Peak Research LLC, a Watsonville-based strawberry breeder.

Koontz said the company will have some acreage in Southern California this season but plans to expand acreage and introduce some new, early-season varieties next year.

The new company will have an organic program in Watsonville, along with conventional berries this season, and will begin an organic strawberry program in Southern California next season.

Well-Pict to increase raspberry volume

Watsonville, Calif.-based Well-Pict Inc. plans to increase its acreage of proprietary raspberries that growers will plant over the next month or so for harvest later this year and in early 2012, said sales manager Dan Crowley.

The company has grown raspberries in the region for about four years but held off on expanding acreage.

“We just had to find the right mix of microclimate and variety,” he said.

The additional acreage will triple Well-Pict’s raspberry volume in Southern California.

Well-Pict grows its 269 proprietary strawberry variety in Southern California.

Westlake Produce starts California program

Los Angeles-based Westlake Produce Co. has grown and packed strawberries in Florida for more than 10 years and now is in the process of launching a California strawberry program.

The company hired industry veteran Dominic Etcheberria, previously with Magarro Farms in Irvine, Calif., to line up acreage in Watsonville, Santa Maria and in Southern California, he said.

The company ships its berries under the Always Fresh Label.


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