Etcheberria ( Tom Burfield )

FULLERTON, Calif. — Produce industry veteran Dominic Etcheberria has returned to California to help guide a group of three Fullerton produce companies as they head in a new direction.

Etcheberria has been named general manager for Veg-Land Inc., its sales arm JBJ Distributing Inc. and its processing operation Fresh Cut Inc.

Etcheberria’s career in Southern California includes 10 years as a general manager with the Irvine Co., where he handled cooler and other responsibilities, and a dozen years with Magarro Farms in Irvine. He has had his own farming ventures, as well.

Most recently, he sold blueberries and blackberries for Curry & Co. LLC in Brooks, Ore.

Brothers Jim and John Matiasevich started the Veg-Land operation in 1976.

They eventually brought their sons Jimmy and Johnny on board.

When John Matiasevich retired earlier this year, Jim and son Jimmy bought out John’s share of the company. Johnny Matiasevich also has left the company.

The firm has begun to put more emphasis on the growing side.

“We’re doing more strategic planning to better align ourselves with our customers’ needs,” Jimmy Matiasevich said.

Part of Etcheberria’s job will be working with growers, an area in which he has extensive experience.

The company has growing operations in Santa Maria and Lompoc, Calif., this summer, where it is growing zucchini, yellow squash, pole cucumbers, green bell peppers and mini sweet peppers.

That program started in mid-July and will continue through October.

In the fall, the crops will switch to items like Brussels sprouts, and the company will be working with some growers in Mexico, Etcheberria said.

The company will grow or buy “a vast array of items,” he said, about 70% of which will be organic.

The processing division sells mostly sliced mangoes in 2.5-pound tubs to foodservice and retail customers along with some microwaveable broccoli florets, cauliflower and squash as well as sliced pineapples, melons and other items.