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North Bay Produce partners with the Produce Mom

The Produce Mom announced the addition of North Bay Produce Inc. to her family of trusted partners. North Bay offers its customers a year-round supply of a variety of fresh produce, thanks to its network of domestic and Latin American growers.The-Produce-Mom-North-Bay-Produce-Infographic

“There’s so much culture represented in this company,” Lori Taylor, The Produce Mom, said in a press release. “Together we will raise consumer confidence and understanding of import produce.”

“Fresh from the Farm, Year Around” is more than a slogan to North Bay. The company currently offers customers a year-round supply of apples, asparagus, blackberries, snow peas, sugar snap peas and blueberries, one of North Bay’s signature items.

The company’s ready-to-eat blueberry snack packs were featured during one of The Produce Mom’s Indy Style segments this summer. North Bay supplies customers with blueberries from its domestic growers spring through fall, then imports fresh blueberries from its Latin American growers during the winter months. Raspberries are offered seasonally, September through June.

“North Bay Produce is committed to providing the world with an uninterrupted supply of high-quality produce,” Sharon Robb, national marketing manager for North Bay, said in the press release. “Partnering with The Produce Mom will allow us to better educate consumers on the year-round freshness, availability and safety of produce.”

The “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools” initiative, a public health campaign to increase salad bars in schools across the country, is another common goal for the two companies. Mark Girardin, President of North Bay Produce, is a Midwest campaign co-chair for the initiative and serves as a captain for the state of Michigan. Taylor takes every opportunity to promote the initiative, whether it’s on her Indy Style morning show segment, her blog or at a speaking engagement such as The Indiana School Nutrition Association Conference.

adidas exec returning to PMA Foundation Executive Leadership Symposium

adidas Group North America President Mark King will share insights on leadership during his upcoming session at the 2015 PMA Foundation Executive Leadership Symposium Jan. 21-23 Dallas. The program, held in partnership with Cornell University, offers senior executives the chance to harness new strategies and ideas to position their company for success in 2015. King will share how he applied his existing sales leadership skills to successfully re-energize TaylorMade Golf Co. and turn it into a No. 1 selling brand.

Now president of adidas Group North America and chairman of TaylorMade Golf Co., King will use his session “Why Do CEO’s and Organizations Fail?” to help attending executives intensify their strategy and vision. He’ll share how relinquishing power and allowing his employees to interject their own creativity and chart their own course transformed TaylorMade from a $300 million in 1999 to $1.7 billion in 2012, despite a flat industry and a challenging world economy. He’ll also explain how produce executives can instill the belief that everyone can make a difference and how they too can gain results by setting outrageous goals and changing energy and behavior.

This will be King’s second Executive Leadership Symposium appearance, having first addressed produce executives at the 2011 symposium. Attendees’ overwhelmingly positive feedback on King’s compelling presentation is in part responsible for his return. King’s lessons on leadership also speak directly to the PMA Foundation’s efforts to establish a workforce with the diverse skills necessary to meet the complex demands of the global produce marketplace.

“Mark King reminded me just how much an executive’s leadership style reflects a company’s success,” Vic Smith, CEO-owner of JV Smith Cos. and regular PMA Foundation Executive Leadership Symposium attendee, said in a press release. “The lessons he shared from his own experiences impressed upon me how an executive’s being open to learning new skills, even while at the top of one’s career leading a global company, is critical in challenging people to excel beyond expectations. Mark is a commanding speaker, and his story has left a lasting impression on my own approach to leadership.”

“I’m excited to return to the PMA Foundation Executive Leadership Symposium and the fresh produce and floral industries in January,” King said in the release. “I’m inspired by the commitment these industry leaders make to continued learning and improving their strategic direction.”

King is one of four influential speakers scheduled on the 2015 Executive Leadership Symposium program. Visit for complete details and to apply online.

Vision Produce expands chili pepper program

Vision Produce Co. has expanded its chili pepper program and announced the debut of its own grower direct deals that encompasses a year-round program with fields in Sinaloa, Sonora and Baja Mexico in addition to Southern California.  20141210 111320

The first harvest was shipped the week of Dec. 8 and included Jalapeños, Pasilla, Serrano, Caribe and Tomatillo. In the spring, Vision will be adding Habanero and Manzanos to complete the full line offering.  All varieties will be packaged under the "California Chile Co." and the "Rodriguera Farms" labels. 

"This was the next natural evolution in our ongoing goal to get closer to the source," Donald Souther, vice president of marketing and sales development, said in a press release. "With the growing popularity of chili peppers, it was important for us to have our own product controlled from seed to distribution.” 

"This will allow us to have complete control over quality and availability to best service our growing customer base," he said. "Certified Food Safety will accompany both labels as an additional feature."

SunFed backing up 'Perfect Produce'

EMPALME, SONORA — “Perfect Produce” is gracefully emblazoned on a towering black marble foyer wall at SunFed’s headquarters. The company’s stylish new black consumer packaging and corresponding industry t-shirts promote “Perfect Produce.” And promotions and packaging push “Perfect Cucumbers,” “Perfect Squash” or “Perfect Melons.”Perfect-CucumbersShowing SunFed’s new 'Perfect Cucumbers' t-shirt are cucumber grower Santiago Zaragoza with SunFed’s Matt Mandel.

Matt Mandel, SunFed’s vice president of sales and marketing, recognizes this “Perfect” approach is rather forward. Brett Burdsal, SunFed’s new director of marketing, is unabashed in his artistic “Perfect” approach from the firm’s headquarters in Rio Rico, AZ.

The company’s premiere brand is “SunFed,” and Mandel said everything to be packed in that brand is top quality. The firm has two other brands: “SunOne” and “Almost Famous.”

This year marks SunFed's 20th anniversary. “In 18 of the 20 years we focused exclusively on the production side," Mandel said. "Now we focus on the tag line ‘Perfect Produce,’ which requires doing everything as well as you possibly can. Brett is here to help us reinvent ourselves. He is very much outside the box. I’m not sure he knows there is a box. I think that is a good thing — to have fresh ideas and fresh ways to be looking to improve the company, our processes and protocols. We built the company based on being conservative. So we are not getting too far out. We are going forward in metered steps.”

Juan-Ramon-SanchezStanding before an irrigation pond at Agricola Bay Hermanos near Empalme, Sonora, are Juan Ramon Sanchez, Brett Burdsal and Matt Mandel. To assure quality and management control of its new packaging, SunFed has slowed rolling out the “Perfect Produce” consumer campaign introduced in October at the PMA Fresh Summit in Anaheim, CA.

Burdsal said his job “is to expand on a phenomenal brand.”

Offering perfect produce is quite a challenge for a shipper-distributor that is intimately involved with 51 growers scattered along Mexico’s west coast.

To demonstrate the quality of programs shipping perfect produce to the Rio Rico distribution center, Mandel and Burdsal escorted The Produce News to Empalme, Sonora, Dec. 10-11. Empalme is a scenic Gulf of California commercial fishing port located about four hours south of Nogales. The farming area visited by The Produce News is cultivated from seemingly virgin desert land to the east and south of Empalme. Empalme is across a small blue bay from the better-known commercial seaport of Guaymas. The region is in Yaqui Valley, which is fed by rich rivers and good wells.

yellow-squash-harvestAt Agricola Bay Hermanos, squash harvesters maximize efficiency through use of an 'águila.' Águila is Spanish for 'eagle.' The machine has wide conveyor belts — wings — to carry plastic field bins to the central trailer. This tour involved two growers: Agricola Bay Hermanos and Agroproductos San Rafael, S.A. de C.V., Empalme, Sonora. Santiago Zaragoza owns the San Rafael operation.

Agricola Bay Hermanos is owned by three brothers. Lorenzo Bay operates the Empalme farm. His brothers, Fausto Bay and Bernardo Bay, operate two separate farms to the north of Hermosillo. Collectively, the Bay brothers produce more than 2,500 acres of vegetables.

“They started with 30 hectares (75 acres) almost 10 years ago,” Mandel said. “They have very sophisticated operations. They exemplify the concept that we don’t work with farmers, but with businessmen who are in the agricultural industry. They invest in their operations, including their people. That is what made them successful, their attention to detail. A lot of what they do mirrors the SunFed mentality.”

Squash varieties — notably zucchini, yellow, straight neck and Mexican grey squash — are the primary crop for Bay brothers. Mandel said the grey squash has grown so much in demand that it surpasses yellow squash in production on the Bay farms. Grey squash has long been popular in Mexico, but consumers north of the border and gaining an appreciation for its good taste. Bay grows about 90 acres of organic vegetables at any given time.

The Bays are increasing their production of conventional and seedless watermelons, as well as cantaloupe.

At Agroproductos San Rafael, Zaragoza produces about a thousand acres of cucumbers, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, mini-watermelons, green and colored Bell peppers and jalapenos.

Empalme production is timed to generally, but not absolutely, precede and succeed vegetable production in Culiacan, which is a few hours to the south. Culiacan production runs from mid-November until March.

Watermelon supplies to pick up in January

NOGALES, AZ — A year ago in December there were plenty of watermelons to ship from northern Mexico. But the fall 2014 crop has run short because two August hurricanes struck Mexico’s west coast.

“There will be a gap from now until the deal begins in Jalisco. This is projected for January,” said Chuy Lopez, president of Big Chuy Distributors & Sons Inc.

“I wish we had them now,” he added in a Dec. 9 interview. There was very little watermelon volume available from Hermosillo and Guaymas in December.Big-Chuy-treeMike Gerardo, Alex Lopez and Chuy Lopez stand on a landing in the Nogales, AZ, office of Big Chuy Distributors & Sons Inc.

Lopez expected that the states of Jalisco and Colima will have reduced watermelon production this winter. The watermelon business has not been very good for the last couple of years, he explained.

“In the spring — in mid-March — we will start with decent volume, running through April and May,” he said. By March 1, watermelon production will have moved back to northern Mexico.

Late this year, Big Chuy is marketing Mexican hard squash and yellow and white sweet corn. “We will be busy with those for the next couple of months," he said. "The markets are holding right now.”