Manuel Orozco, co-owner with his brother, Luis, of Arcadios Produce Inc., fills an order at the company’s facility on the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market. A multi-year project calls for replacing each of the original four buildings on the market, says Michael Janis, general manager. ( Courtesy San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market )

Fall is a busy time on the Northern California produce scene as consumers return to the kitchen to prepare hearty autumn dishes and distributors gear up for the holidays.

At the San Francisco Wholesale Produce Market, although work had been paused while the market explored a potential partnership with another organization, a multi-year reinvestment plan is again underway for replacing each of the original four buildings, said Michael Janis, general manager.

“The scale of these buildings is such that they have to happen in phases,” Janis said.  “We have been planning for that next phase.”

The market has made a major commitment to continue to improve or replace the infrastructure, he said.

“This separates the San Francisco market from many similar places of our age,” he said.

“That continues to be the highest priority for us.”

All the space on the market has been allocated, with some of the 28 merchants looking for additional space.

The economy in the region is “incredible,” Janis said, the market is in a good location, and vendors are fortunate that Bay Area residents put a high value on produce.

One distributor that is capitalizing on the region’s propensity for fresh fruits and vegetables is Washington Vegetable Co..

“We’re doing pretty well,” said Mike Pizza, who handles sales and administration for the company.

Business is up compared to last year, especially on exports, which he said are “a really consistent source of business (that) moved a lot of packages.”

Fall and winter is a good time for sales, since summer vacations are over, kids are back in school, and several food-oriented holidays are on the horizon, he said.

Greens, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are among the most popular fall/winter items, he said. 

Pete Carcione, president of Carcione’s Fresh Produce Co. Inc. on the Golden Gate Market in South San Francisco, said there’s an advantage to customers’ buying from the market in person.

“They’re not just picking up the phone and ordering something,” Carcione said. “They can feel it and taste it before they buy it.

There’s a big difference.”

The business has changed with a number of small stores and restaurants buying from the market rather than major chains, he said.

“The stores that are buying from the market are doing well,” he added.

Consumers are gravitating toward fresh produce as they try to adopt more healthful diets and get recipe ideas and cooking tips from TV cooking shows, he added.

Avocados, bananas, plantains, strawberries, mushrooms, grapes and apples are some of the company’s bestselling fruits, while kale, beets, turnips, collard greens and dandelions are popular vegetables.

Grant J. Hunt Co., Oakland, Calif., has enjoyed “a solid year overall,” said Eric Patrick, director of marketing.

The company’s main products include apples, pears, cherries, onions, potatoes, citrus and berries.

The industry has high expectations for the new Cosmic Crisp apple variety scheduled to be released out of Washington state in December, he said.

Fall is a busy time for CDS Distributing Inc. in South San Francisco, said Jan Garrett, vice president of marketing.

The company now is shipping a number of Northwest apples and will offer the organic lady apple variety under the Harmony label loose and in 1.25-pound pouches through January, she said.

CDS plans to offer cherries imported from Chile starting in December.