Azhderian & Co. celebrates 100 years

Los Banos, Calif.-based V.H. Azhderian & Co. Inc. is marking its 100th anniversary in 2015, said Berj Moosekian, general manager and grandson of company founder Vahan Azhderian.

"It"s a great feeling to be part of a family business that has stayed in the business this long. We"d like to keep it going," Moosekian said.

Moosekian"s mother, Betty, daughter of the founder, is 98 this year, he said.

"I remember saying to her some time ago, during the retail consolidation, ‘Let"s keep it going let"s get to 100 years and view the horizon and see if we want to keep going."

That"s still the plan, he said.

"If we have water, we"ll keep going," he said.

Moosekian said his grandfather emigrated from Turkey to San Francisco in the mid-1890s and, not long after arriving, found work in the melon business.

"Like many immigrants, he made contact with people from his village in Turkey," Moosekian said. "They asked him to go to work for them. He came to the valley and started working melons for them."

Moosekian said his company isn"t marking the 100th anniversary with any grand celebrations.

"We had some jackets made for employees and friends other than that, we"re not doing any big thing," he said.


Cantaloupe board member retires

The California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, Dinuba, recently honored Tom Perez, a partner in Crows Landing-based Perez Farms, on the occasion of his retirement, said Steve Patricio, the board"s chairman.

Perez had served on the advisory board since its inception in 1988, Patrichio said.


Couture Farms partner dies

Kettleman City, Calif.-based Couture Farms lost a longtime partner when 97-year-old Paul Couture died Feb. 2.

Couture also was a former board member of Western Growers.

Couture Farms, a family operation now run by Couture"s sons, Steve and Chris Couture, grows melons, asparagus, almonds, pistachios and pomegranates.

"A leader and legend in the melon industry, he was also an innovator whose contributions will long be remembered," Matt McInerney, executive vice president at Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers, said in a news release at the time of (Paul) Couture"s death.

Paul Couture"s father first shipped grapes in 1926. In its early days, the operation dehydrated and shipped large emperor grapes to Europe. At the start of World War II, that ceased and was replaced by carrots, melons and other crops. The grower supplied almost half of the army"s dehydrated carrots in the war"s Pacific theater, according to the release.

Couture Farms has been a member of Western Growers since 1946. Paul Couture served on its board 1956-58, 1960-64, 1968 and 1971-76.


Crown Jewels exits Westside deal

Crown Jewels Produce, Fresno, Calif., won"t participate in the 2015 Westside melon deal for the first time in years, said Atomic Torosian, a partner.

Crown Jewels had been marketing melons from Perez Farms, Crows Landing, Calif., which stopped participating in the deal because of the ongoing drought, Torosian said.

"Last August we let it be known that Perez Packing wouldn"t be in the cantaloupe deal for the first time since 1948," Torosian said. "Because of the water situation and having other crops that they grow that were of more value, such as almonds, pistachios, cannery tomatoes, cherries and a couple of other things that they were making more money by allocating the water in that direction."

It"s just part of a trend, Torosian said.

"You"re seeing more growers that have been in the traditional growing areas shying away from cantaloupes and doing other things," he said.

Crown Jewels has other items, so it will overcome losing Perez"s westside melons, Torosian said.

"We"re a diversified company," he said.

That includes melons from Mexico in the spring and fall seasons, he said.

"Right now, we"re probably crossing 20-25 loads of watermelons a day and probably four or five loads of honeydews a day," Torosian said May 27. "We are finished with Mexico cantaloupes now."


Del Mar Farms tries new varieties

Westley, Calif.-based Del Mar Farms is trying some new cantaloupe varieties, said Brian Wright, sales manager.

"We"re planting a couple of new cantaloupe varieties that are high in brix," he said, noting that the company is experimenting with three new varieties that "a lot of other guys are doing, as well."

Looking at new offerings is part of the company"s regular routine, he said.

"We don"t reinvent the wheel every year, but we definitely try a couple of new things every year," he said.

Among the varieties the company is trying out are the Dynamic and Infinite Gold, Wright said.

"Dynamic is a big one guys are starting to work with," he said.

The company had worked on the Infinite Gold variety before and now is trying it out on a bigger scale, Wright said.

"That"s what usually happens with these trial varieties," he said.

Wright said Del Mar also is working with a couple of new honeydew varieties that have not yet been named.


Dulcinea brings out Sunny Gold

Ladera Ranch, Calif.-based Dulcinea Farms LLC is introducing a yellow-flesh miniature watermelon called Sunny Gold this year, said Steve Dabich, vice president of sales.

It"s a variant of the company"s PureHeart mini variety, but it has yellow flesh, Dabich said.

Production volume will be "small, until we find out the characteristics of growing it," he said. "It"s probably 1% of what we do. It"s more about introducing a new product to the retailers."

The new variety has had some early demand, Dabich said.

"We"ve had trials going on, and everybody that got the trial is pleasantly surprised by the flavor," he said.


Legend Produce increases acreage

Dos Palos, Calif.-based Legend Produce LLC has increased its cantaloupe acreage in Woodland, Calif., said Barry Zwillinger, a partner with the company, which holds exclusive marketing rights for the Origami variety.

The company grew on 600 acres in Woodland, about 15 miles northwest of Sacramento, in 2014.

The company is moving production into areas outside drought-stricken districts that also have ample labor pools, Zwillinger said.

"We"re growing less in Huron than we ever have before and increased our acreage significantly for 2015 close to 1,200 acres for the Westside from last year," he said.

He declined to be more specific, other than to say, "We"re probably up 20% on our acreage this year."


Westside Produce fires up solar panels

Firebaugh, Calif.-based Westside Produce Inc. has installed 1 megawatt"s worth of solar panels at its operation in the last year, said Steve Patricio, president.

"We"ll be operating this year on a zero usage basis, where we"re going to generate enough power to power our cooler and reduce our carbon footprint," he said, referring to a solar power generation system that went online in November 2014.

Fresno, Calif.-based Barrier Solar installed the panels on 4 acres, Patrichio said.

"The payback is pretty quick figure about four to five years," he said.

It was an easy business decision to make, Patrichio said.

"Our single biggest cost after labor is power," he said. "Power just continues to go up, up, up, and we needed to try and hold our costs to stay competitive."

The project cost about $2 million, Patricio said.