Two years ago, family-owned Boskovich Farms Inc. had about 20 acres of organic produce in Oxnard, Calif., where the company is based. Most of that was mixed greens.
By fall, that number could increase to 700 acres with "a real good mix" of 30 or 40 items, said Peter Oill, director of sales and marketing for organic.
The company"s product line will include a mix of staple items, like broccoli, celery, cabbage, lettuce, onions, endive and collards, as well as more specialized offerings, like savoy cabbage, beets and radishes.
The organic line will basically mimic the company"s conventional line, Oill said.
The firm"s venture into organics began about seven years ago with a customer"s request, said George Boskovich Jr., chief executive officer.
"It was pretty much driven by our retail business," he said.
Green onions was the first organic commodity Boskovich Farms offered, he said.
But as time went on, sales weren"t meeting Boskovich"s expectations.
"We didn"t really know the market," he said.
So about 18 months ago, when nearby organic grower Purepak Inc. closed its doors, Boskovich lost no time snapping up Oill, who had sold organic items to Boskovich Farms at various times during the 25 years he worked at Purepak.
"There was a gap of acres" when Purepak closed, Oill said, so Boskovich set out to close some of that gap.
"It was a perfect complement to their company," Oill said.
Boskovich Farms is "well-known and respected," he said, and saw organics as an up-and-coming category.
Oill said the program at Boskovich still is "a work in progress" that he expects to grow over the coming years.
"It"s probably the largest growth area in produce in 20 or 30 years," he said.
Organic products account for only a small percentage of the firm"s thousands of acres, he said, but the program will continue to grow, since many of the company"s growers have access to additional certified acreage.
Growing practices have continued to improve since the 1970s and early 1980s when organics were considered "a hippy thing," Oill said.
Today, organics appeal to all demographics, he said.
"It"s going to keep growing and growing," Oill said.
"Retailers are not experimenting anymore," Boskovich added. "Everybody has an organic section."
Boskovich said Boskovich Farms aims to supply its customers with organic products year-round by planting in several growing regions: Oxnard, Holtville, and Buellton, Calif., as well as its well-established program out of Mexico.
"We like to build on steady, year-round business," he said. "As we get into more items, it encourages you, as you do well, to do more."
The company has a lot of "one-stop shopping-minded customers," he said.
"They come with an empty truck knowing we can fill it up."
The firm"s latest undertaking has been on the processed side.
Boskovich Farms now offers washed, packaged and ready-to-eat spinach and plans to add other items as it is able to ensure year-round supplies and consistent quality.
"We"re looking to give the customers what they want," Boskovich said.