Stellar Distributing’s biggest fig season to be followed by shipments from Mexico

Stellar Distributing is in its fourth season shipping Tiger figs, and the production and enthusiasm for the striped skin and bright red flesh of this new fig keep growing.

The sweeter, honey-like taste has been a hit with fig fans, but is also attracting consumers who haven’t traditionally purchased figs, according to Kurt Cappelluti, sales manager at the Madera, CA-based company.

“It’s the best season we’ve ever had,” said Cappelluti. “The size is fantastic. I’m packing 25,000 trays a day and I’m still short. We made the transition to Sierra and Tiger figs. The retail side has found those varieties are more than we ever thought they would be. Turkeys and Black Missions are also doing really well. Our Calimyrnas are all gone. Sierras and Tigers will also be available out of Mexico.”

Mexican figs will start shipping in late October, when Stellar will be wrapping up its California fig season, according to Paul Catania Jr., president of Catania Worldwide, based in Mississauga, ON.

Catania Worldwide and Stellar Distributing are the only fully vertically integrated companies to supply fresh figs to U.S. markets year-round. Catania Jr. has been working with Mexican fig growers for four years, but shipped his first Mexican figs into the U.S. from his own 150 acres in the state of Sonora in April.

Van Solkema set to roll out new Brussels sprouts pouch

BYRON CENTER, MI — Van Solkema Produce Inc., based here, was set to introduce a new Brussels sprouts pouch bag on Aug. 12. Tim Van Solkema, chief operating officer of the firm, said the resealable, clear and high-graphics bags are very popular and will be a large boost to the firm’s Brussels sprouts business.

Tim’s brother, Todd Van Solkema, who is the firm’s chief executive officer, said the firm’s packaging line “has had steady growth.”

Pouch sales “are going real well,” he said. “When you have growth, you have growing pains. But we find a way to work through it.”

Sourcing in Georgia and Nogales, AZ, has made Van Solkema Produce a year-round supplier.

In Nogales, Van Solkema works through a “bird dog” and a consolidation house. The firm has sourced in Nogales for two seasons.

“Our next goal is to add a repack operation in Georgia,” Van Solkema added. For secure management, expansions such as these “have to be controlled” and not done all at once.

In addition to the new Brussels sprouts package offering, other key Michigan items Van Solkema is shipping this summer are sweet corn, hard squash, parsnips, turnips, beets and cabbage. The firm will also ship Peruvian onions and will restart with Georgia squash at the end of August. The Georgia deal “will build from there.”  

This summer, Van Solkema shipped a 12-count Michigan sweet corn four-pack tray. The sweet corn overwrap bears a picture of Tim Van Solkema’s 4-year-old daughter, Kensingtyn.

Good Foods Group celebrates expansion of Wisconsin facility

Good Foods Group, a producer and marketer of guacamole and cold-pressed juices based in Pleasant Prairie, WI, celebrated the expansion of its plant in Pleasant Prairie, WI, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony July 22.

The expansion adds 40,000 square feet to its facility in the LakeView Corporate Park.

Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who was on hand to participate in the celebration, said, “I congratulate Good Foods on their recent success and expansion. We are excited that they selected the state of Wisconsin in 2013 for their future growth plans and are excited to see those plans come to fruition.”

Kurt Penn, chief executive officer and founder of Good Foods Group, expressed his appreciation to Kenosha County and Pleasant Prairie.

“They have continued to be helpful throughout our expansion and have been great partners in developing quality jobs, quality facilities and quality companies,” Penn said.

Celery producer Crispheart Produce celebrates 75th anniversary

HUDSONVILLE, MI — Gene Talsma’s father, William Talsma, launched Crispheart Produce Inc. in 1940, making this the firm’s 75th anniversary.  

“I bought the company from him,” Talsma said, adding that his sons Randy and Derick are in line to eventually own the firm. Talsma has worked full time for the company since he graduated from high school in 1960.

He notes that his “Crispheart” celery and celery heart brand is one of the commodity’s most recognized brands nationally.  

The firm owns an efficient packing operation that is located in an industrial park in Hudsonville. This area is surrounded by the black muck soil yielding optimum celery production. The flat, rich land resembles Holland, which is the native land to so many who live in this area.  

Although the immediate vicinity is known for celery production, Talsma said Crispheart packs and distributes for Michigan celery growers that are located in a 50-mile range to the south, north and west of Hudsonville.

Most of the firm’s customers take advantage of the local aspect of Crispheart and thus are located in the Midwest. Kansas City is the freight-cost balance point between Michigan and California celery shippers, so that is the western edge of Talsma’s usual shipping bounds.  The company also has customers in the South and East.

Crispheart normally ships celery until late October. The Michigan celery deal traditionally begins in late June.

E. Miedema thriving with summertime vegetable deal

BYRON CENTER, MI — Sweet corn shipping is in full swing for E. Miedema & Sons Inc., based here. The firm is growing, packing and shipping 1,600 acres of vegetables this summer. Sweet corn acreage for the firm will be between 600 and 700 acres, according to Dave Miedema, the third-generation head of the family farm.  

E. Miedema, which ships “Buck Creek” brand, produces about half as much cabbage and fall squash acreage as sweet corn. Cabbage shipping began June 20 and will run until Nov. 1. Fall squash shipping began Aug. 5 and is expected to end at Thanksgiving.

Miedema said he also ships about 30 acres of summer squash. The firm is “dabbling” in organic cabbage and squash this year.  

It has been an excellent growing season, Miedema said. The last week of July became hot and dry, so the firm was irrigating and needed rain.

Miedema is 65 years old and in the process of turning the business over to his sons Jeremy, Tim and Joel Miedema, as well as two of his nephews, Ryan and Jeff Miedema.  

Ryan and Jeff’s father, Ken Miedema, was Dave Miedema’s brother and lifelong business partner. Ken died in April 2014, six weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer.   

Steve Haaksma is E. Miedema’s sales manager.