( Photo courtesy Michael Pierce, Source Unslpash )

West Mexico provides a large amount of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the U.S. each winter, and that includes an ever-expanding selection of organic produce.

Fresh Farms, Rio Rico, Ariz., continues to see increased sales for its organic items, said salesman Al Voll.

Fresh Farms offers organic green beans, zucchini squash, yellow squash, table grapes and cucumbers with more commodities to be added in the future, he said.

“We started in the organic category a few years ago and continue to see steady growth with continued healthy eating trends and better competitive pricing,” Voll said.

The company also is doing more program sales for its organic as well as conventional produce, setting long-term, contract prices rather than charging daily market prices.

“We’re getting away from the day-to-day spot markets because it’s just such a battle,” he said.

The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, will heavily promote red, orange and yellow sweet bell peppers from West Mexico in bulk and in value-added packs this winter along with mini sweet peppers — all in conventional and organic versions, said Aaron Quon, executive category director of greenhouse.

The program started in August and ramps up in January, he said.

“We are very excited that fruit quality at the start of the season has been excellent,” he said late last year.

Rio Rico-based IPR Fresh ships organic colored bell peppers under the Organic Republic label year-round, said Jose Luis Obregon, president.

The program has been around for three seasons and has been “consistently increasing over the years.”

Growing organically is more complicated than growing conventionally, but the company’s grower “has it well tied down on organic production” and sometimes is able to get yields that rival those of conventional products, Obregon said.

Demand for organic produce is on the rise and has spilled over from organically oriented supermarkets to conventional stores, he added.
It looks like a good season for organic citrus from Rio Rico-based Patagonia Orchards LLC, said Delilah Romo, sales and purchasing manager.

The company kicked off its early valencia oranges and grapefruit in the fall then headed into its dancy mandarin program, which it markets as Sonoran Sweets.

True valencias should kick off by February.

“We’re expecting good volume; it was a good growing year,” Romo said. 

“Everything looks really, really healthy.”

The company now has two growers instead of one and expects to double its acreage this season.

“Year after year, we see more and more demand,” Romo said.

“We definitely see a spike in sales in January,” she added, as consumers resolve to eat healthier during the new year.

Owner Philip Ostrom also touted Patagonia’s young organic coconuts, which are “corked and ready to enjoy as a beverage out of Mexico.”

They should be available in late spring.

Most of the company’s products are sold to customers on the West Coast and in the Pacific Northwest, he said.

The company also ships limes year-round.

Portland, Ore.-based Bridges Produce Inc., which has a branch in Nogales, Ariz., has been distributing organic produce for decades, said Oscar Trujillo, grower relations and sales manager.

Bridges Produce handles all the basic items from West Mexico, including winter and summer squash, bell peppers, chili peppers, cucumbers, green beans and eggplant.

Some distributors have been attracted by the popularity of the organic category but ended up pulling out quickly after realizing that, “It’s a whole different world,” Trujillo said.

“You can’t just put an organic sticker on something and expect it to sell,” he said. 

“You have to be plugged into the customers and have the relationships.”

Bridges Produce sources from six farms in West Mexico. Prices of organic produce have fallen over time, he said.

“Prices are almost half of what they used to be eight years ago.”

Falling prices are tough on growers, whose costs for seed, packing materials and boxes and other necessities rise, he said.

“Production costs increase and grower returns go down every year.” 

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