Wholesum Family Farms in Nogales, Ariz., has been a 100% organic fresh vegetable supplier for several years, but that’s not the main factor in the company’s growth.
“Quality of the product is what consumers look for the most,” said general manager Ricardo Crisantes. “Then they may be surprised that the cucumber they just ate, it’s Fair Trade Certified, and it’s helping build a community.”
The company found its purpose, he said, that it can be a successful business in agriculture and also contribute to society.
“With Fair Trade, we see a time where we’ll be 100%,” Crisantes said. “It reflects our company’s values.”
That philosophy reflects many of Crisantes’ values as well.
The Crisantes family is now in its third generation of growing and shipping fresh produce from Mexico.
Ricardo Crisantes said his grandparents started the business, and now his parents, brother and sister are stakeholders with him in the farming operation in Culiacan and Sonora, Mexico, and in Arizona.
He said the company grows about 85% of the product it ships, which includes certified organic tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash and eggplant.
Wholesum handled organic for many years, but about five years ago, it moved to 100% organic, Crisantes said.
“We want to do one thing and do it really well,” he said.
Mike Wise, president of Horton Fruit Co., Louisville, Ky., got to know Crisantes when both were in the United Fresh Produce Association leadership class in 2008, but their companies had already been doing business.
“Ricardo is as good as there is, his honesty and integrity,” Wise said.
Wise said he agrees that Wholesum is at the top of year-round organic vegetable quality, and that’s why Horton’s business with the company has grown.
He said he notices that Crisantes treats his company and his employees like family, even those who aren’t technically in his family.
“He cares deeply for the people in his business,” Wise said.
Crisantes said he’s learned that empowering the people in the company makes them stronger, but it’s not just about giving employees more responsibility.
“I thought it was just making them responsible, but with Fair Trade, for instance, we work on empowering others,” he said.
Crisantes said he grew up doing all kinds of jobs in the family business, and his kids have done some of that as well, but he doesn’t know if sons Ricardo Jr. (18) and Santiago (16) and daughter Sofia (12) will choose produce as a career.
If they do, they will already know the Wholesum Family Farms values.