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Top Brass has more Sugraone acreage for the early San Joaquin Valley season

Top Brass Marketing Inc. in Bakersfield, CA, is the exclusive sales agent for table grapes, wine grapes and potatoes grown and packed by Vignolo Farms in Shafter, CA.

“We do table grapes from the end of June or beginning of July to December,” said Brett Dixon, president and sales manager.

The wine grapes are “a pretty quick deal, fast-paced,” running from the end of August to the beginning of October, he said.

Also in the produce classification, “we do potatoes,” both conventional and organic, from April to the beginning of August. “Those are fresh colored potatoes — reds, whites and yellows,” Dixon said.

The entire operation, from growing and packing to cold storage and marketing, is part of Vignolo Farms, which is family owned and operated. “It is third generation,” Dixon said. “Everything is done by us from beginning to end. We don’t do any outside product,” and in the table grapes, wine grapes and potatoes, everything is sold by Top Brass,” which handles only product from Vignolo. “We don’t sell for anyone else.”

Vignolo Farms grows pistachios and almonds as well, “but we do not sell those ourselves,” he added. “Those go through co-ops.”

In its table grape program, the company has volume increases in some varieties for the 2013 season, including for the early season.

“At the beginning of our deal,” which was expected to start in late June this year, “we’ve got more Sugraones to offer,” Dixon said. That is due to “additional Sugraone acreage that is coming into harvest this year.”

For later in the season, Top Brass will have some new varieties, such as Timco green seedless, and will have increases in some of the other newer varieties such as Scarlet Royal and Autumn King, he said.

Additionally, “we are increasing our organic program, which will include Luiscos, Sugraones and Scarlet Royals,” he said.

The start of the harvest will be earlier than last year by about seven to 10 days, Dixon said. It will begin “the tail end of June” with Flames and Sugraones. “Then we will get into some Summer Royals the middle of July,” followed by a series of other varieties through the balance of the season.

With regard to packaging, Top Brass will offer traditional bags, “plus we have the new handle bags,” our pouch bags with new graphics, he said.

New on sales is April Myers who has been with the company about 14 or 15 years in other capacities. “She just got into sales last year and is continuing this year,” Dixon said. “She sells all three commodities that we sell here at Top Brass.”

Also on sales are Mr. Dixon, Rob Anderholt, Christine Toy and Greg White.

Along with the company’s growth in volume, “we’ve got additional pre-cooling capabilities” this season, Dixon added. “We have gone from being able to pre-cool 30,000 boxes” per day to now being able to pre-cool double that number. Also, “we have additional storage space in our cooling [facility] with additional racking to accommodate more cartons.”

The company was currently in process of preparing to install a one megawatt solar electrical generation system that Dixon said would provide about 80 percent of the power needed to operate the company’s cold-storage facility.

“It is part of our effort to lower our overall eco footprint,” he said.

“We are breaking ground on that in September,” and the installation is expected to be completed by the end of the year. It is being installed on the ground and will consist of 44,280 panels covering four acres.