Business updates: Southern California Strawberries

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

Boskovich Farms sees 20% rise in acreage

Oxnard, Calif.-based Boskovich Farms Inc. has increased its strawberry acreage by 20% this season, said Russ Widerburg, sales manager. The company boosted its volume so that it can better meet the needs of its customers, he said.

The company produces mostly the san andreas and ventana varieties, but also grows some benicia and palomar strawberries.

Colorful Harvest adds three southern ranches

Colorful Harvest LLC, Salinas, Calif., has added three ranches in Southern California and has expanded its acreage there, said Doug Ranno, chief operating officer and managing partner.

“Overall, our southern acreage is probably up by 25% to 30%,” he said.

The company also has improved its varietal mix to incorporate “the very best university varieties and some of our proprietary varieties,” he said.

The firm has adjusted its planting profile to better customize its berries, offering, for example, strawberries with stems attached for Valentine’s Day and larger volume for Mother’s Day and other holidays, Ranno said.

Driscoll’s ups supplies from Southern California

Watsonville, Calif.-based Driscoll Strawberry Associates is in the process of increasing its spring supply, said Douglas Ronan, vice president of marketing. That’s because the company’s berry program has grown from a seasonal offering to a year-round program.

“Southern California is an integral part of that strategy,” he added.

The firm was “looking for partnerships with quality growers to support broader growth in our spring supply,” he said.

Ronan did not reveal specific acreage figures.

Naturipe Farms adds acres in California

Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC has increased its Southern California acreage of the proprietary “1975” variety by 10% over last year, said Jim Roberts, vice president of sales.

The company also has added a number of proprietary varieties to its raspberry and blackberry acreage to bridge the gap between other growing regions and plans to offer the fruit year-round.

Naturipe also has re-engineered some of its packaging to support pallet configurations that will allow shippers to put 50% more fruit on each truck, and the firm has introduced a 3-pound package for consumers who want to “upsize over the 2-pound but thought that 4 pounds was a little too much,” Roberts said.

The company has hired Keith Parker, most recently with Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif., as product manager for organics. Parker is based in Salinas, Calif.

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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