Rico Farms employees pack organic zucchini that will be sold be Bridges Produce. ( Courtesy Bridges Produce )

Bridges Produce, Portland, Ore., has begun its fall season of Mexican organic produce.

Zucchini and yellow squash from Rico Farms will begin the week of Sept. 21, with increasing volumes through the fall and winter. The company is currently importing cucumbers, including English cucumbers, through Nogales, Ariz.

Other fall crops that Bridges Produce imports from Mexico include eggplant, hard squash, bell peppers, chili peppers and melons, according to a news release.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a change in customer preferences, said Oscar Trujillo, category manager for Bridges Produce’s Mexican program. More customers are seeking locked-in volumes and pricing heading into the season.

“With the challenges of COVID-19 both on the demand and supply side, people are feeling a little bit more fragile and are looking for ways to secure supplies,” Trujillo said in the release. “These commitments feel like a good thing, providing stability for both ends of the supply chain. Due to this shift open market buys might not be as prevalent or frequent as other seasons.”   

Supplier Rico Farms, which has up to 600 employees living and working onsite during the peak season, continues to reassess and develop safety plans to mitigate risks. The company tests for COVID-19 onsite and employees are grouped into pods that work, eat and live together to limit exposure, according to the release. 

The operation is fair trade certified, which has provided additional resources to workers, with preventative care kits and food vouchers provided.

Bridges Produce President Ben Johnson said his company has also taken precautions during the pandemic.

“When so much else is unpredictable and chaotic right now, our team is working tirelessly to maintain ample supply of great organic produce,” he said in the release.

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