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Fresh Farms increases volume on most commodities

by Rand Green | December 06, 2010
NOGALES, AZ — Fresh Farms, here, which has grown steadily since its founding in 2006, will see additional growth on most commodities for the 2010-11 season, according to Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing.

In squash, "we are getting to be one of the larger shippers" in the Nogales deal, he said.

Originally established just a year ago to market some of the grapes, melons and squash for two agricultural operations owned by the Molina family of Hermosillo, Mexico, which owns Fresh Farms, the company has since broadened to represent additional growers as well.

Fresh Farms expanded its soft squash program last year to where it is now “in the squash business — zucchini, yellow and gray squash — from October all the way through June with no interruptions,” Mr. Havel told The Produce News in November 2009. “We also now have continuous supply of the hard squash — Acorn, Butternut, Spaghetti and Kabocha — from November all the way till June.”

With that growth last year, “we are kind of to the point now” with soft-shell squash “where we like the number we are at,” Mr. Havel said Nov. 15. “But we are still up slightly,” with a small increase over last year in squash out of the Hermosa district in the state of Sonora, Mexico.

In the hard shell squash, this year's program is “bigger and better than ever,” he said. “We started in early November” with an Acorn, Butternut, Kabocha and Spaghetti squash program, and “we will go all the way to May with those four varieties” with production out of Guaymas and Obregon.

The company is experiencing a significant increase in cucumbers this season. “We’ve got about a 400 percent increase in cucumbers this year over last year’s program,” Mr. Havel said. Cucumbers are “our biggest area of growth” for the early part of the 2010-11 season. The increase is in both shadehouse-grown and open field pole-grown product.

“We are a major supplier of cucumbers from October until January,” he said. “Then we have a slight gap in January and into February. Then we pick back up again in March, and will have a very large supply of cucumbers until May.”

Fresh Farms is working at “trying to fill in the gap during January and February” but has not yet achieved that, he said.

Melons have been a significant product line for Fresh Farms since its inception, and that program has expanded this year as well. “We had some success growing mini-melons last spring, so we grew mini-melons for the fall as well. That is new for us for the fall, so we’ve got mini-melons to go with our seedless [watermelons] that we are selling right now. They will run into the middle of December,” he said.

The company’s honeydew melon program is larger and runs longer this year. In the past, “we were just a Caborca operation” which was basically for the month of October, Mr. Havel said. “We now have [two new growers] growing honeydews for us in Hermosillo, which is new.”

Additionally, “we now have a fall deal … out of Guaymas” that will extend the fall honeydew program later into the season, he said. That harvest was expected to begin the end of November and continue “all the way through December.”

Currently, the company has a winter gap in its watermelon and honeydew programs for about three months, before the spring deal starts up again. To fill that gap, it will be necessary to look at production further south, “like Jalisco,” he said. Except for the winter gaps for melons and cucumbers, Fresh Farms’ programs all run continuously from October through May, he said.

Along with the increase in volume, “our customer base is growing,” Mr. Havel said. “The company is growing. We continue to get bigger.”

Continuing on sales with Mr. Havel are Marco Serrano and Rachel Espinoza.