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California strawberry growers form new sales company

by Tim Linden | March 11, 2011

Two multi-generational strawberry farming companies in California have joined forces to form a new sales company called CBS Farms, which is headquartered in Watsonville, CA.

The sales company will service customers year round with strawberries from multiple locations throughout Mexico and California, selling the various labels of the two companies, including “Colleen” and “Beach Street Farms.”

Colleen Strawberries Inc. and Beach Street Farms LLC., announced the agreement March 9, stating that the principals in the farming families are long-time friends who all grew up in the Watsonville area together. The new company began representing the berries from these two firms Monday, March 7, with current shipments originating from the Oxnard, CA, area.

Edward Ortega, one of the owners of Beach Street Farms, said that after working in the same industry for many years and cooperating on some projects, the three principals believed the timing was right and that the opportunity existed for them to join forces and form the new firm.

“We all know each other very well and have worked together on various deals including a cooling operation,” he told The Produce News March 9. “We thought that we could offer more consistent supplies if we joined forces under one sales company.”

He said that the new sales agency will represent substantial volume from the three growers and would not rule out the possibility that other growers’ fruit would also be marketed by CBS Farms.

Mr. Ortega said that Charlie Staka, who was director of sales at Colleen Strawberries, is heading up sales at the new operation, which is located at the same Watsonville address.

Stephanie Hilton, who previously worked as a marketing consultant for Beach Street Farms, continues in that role. She said that both strawberry-growing companies have built their businesses on a reputation for quality and will continue to ship only the highest-quality fruit.

“Customer communication will be a priority, and as a grower-owned sales group, relevant production information will be available at all times,” she said.   “The sales team will be out in the fields on a daily basis with the growers assessing production, and growers will communicate the latest information throughout the day to the sales team either by visiting the office personally or by phone, ensuring that customers will have access to the latest information.”

Beach Street Farms is owned by Mr. Ortega and his partner, Steve Rodoni. The firm grows both conventional and organic strawberries under several different labels, including “Beach Street Farms,” “Firstpick” and “Surfside.”

Colleen Strawberries Inc. was the sales agency for EKT Farms, selling its berries under the “Colleen,” “Ortega Ranches” and “RMS Organic” labels. EKT Farms is owned by long-time strawberry growers Ed and Jean Kelly.

Beach Street Farms’ sales previously were handled by Beach Street Sales Inc. in Watsonville. Beach Street Sales was an operating unit of Lange Trading Co., which is a subsidiary of the Tom Lange Co.

Representatives of Beach Street Sales did not return phone calls by this publication’s press time.

Fritz Koontz, one of the original Beach Street Farms partners and its director of marketing for the past 16 years, recently severed his ties with that firm and opened his own farming and sales operation called Santa Cruz Berry Farms, also in Watsonville, which will focus on organic strawberry sales.