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SALINAS, CA -- Industry veteran Ken Silveira has joined Kingsville, ON-based Mastronardi Produce Ltd. as president of its new division, Mastronardi West.

Mastronardi Produce is opening a 20,000-square-foot warehouse here, with additional office space connected to it. The company will begin shipping product out of Salinas by April 1, Mr. Silveira told The Produce News Feb. 24.

The Salinas office will carve out a U.S. region designated as west of Denver, with distribution in California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington as its primary focus, Mr. Silveira said.

"[Mastronardi Produce] wanted to come West," Mr. Silveira said, adding that the company's 50-plus-year history, Paul Mastronardi's passion for the business and the company's strong team in Ontario all were appealing to him.

Mr. Silveira brings years of produce industry experience and contacts to his new role. He spent nearly 20 years at Spreckels, CA-based Tanimura & Antle Inc., leaving about a year ago. In his final year at T&A, he served as president. Prior to that, he had focused on operations.

Messrs. Silveira and Mastronardi, who is executive vice president of Mastronardi Produce, have built a strong rapport over the past three years. According to Mr. Silveira, after he left T&A, customers with whom he had worked encouraged Mastronardi Produce to partner with him.

Mr. Mastronardi said in a press release that for years, customers "have been asking for our 'Sunset' brand on the West Coast," and now the company can accommodate them "with the same quality of service we provide in the East."

In addition to its Ontario headquarters, Mastronardi Produce has facilities in Romulus, MI, Lakeland, FL, Maroa, IL, and Brush, CO.

Mastronardi Produce has hired 20-year produce industry veteran Laurie Gray, who is based in Vancouver, BC, to assist Mr. Silveira with sales development. Most recently, Ms. Gray worked for Greenhouse Gourmet, also based in Vancouver.

Mastronardi West will be located at 1370 Dayton St. in Salinas, near Abbott Street, a major thoroughfare for produce companies.

Mr. Silveira said that he is close to hiring an office manager and will be looking to fill key sales positions. "I'm looking for a director of sales with contacts on the West Coast," he said, adding that he is also looking for "two or three salespeople with West Coast contacts." Those salespeople would work out of the company's Salinas office, he said.

Mr. Silveira has committed to a one-year lease on the Salinas facility. In the future, Mastronardi Produce will consider relocating its West Coast operations to have a greenhouse operation connected to it, Mr. Silveira said. The Salinas Valley could remain a site for such a facility, or another area such as Santa Maria, CA, may be viable, he said.

Mastronardi Produce is one of the larger glass and plastic greenhouse operations in the world and produces vegetables including tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers on a year-round basis.