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Village Farms values good retail channel mix of clients

Helen L. Aquino, marketing manager for Village Farms LP, headquartered in Eatontown, NJ, told The Produce News that the company is a North American-based firm that grows hydroponically in extremely resource-efficient, high-tech glass houses.

“We grow a number of tomato varieties including, tomatoes on-the-vine, beefsteaks, Romas, grapes, cherry and our signature cocktail tomato that we call ‘Sinfully Sweet Campari,’ “ said Ms. Aquino. “We also grow sweet bell peppers in red, yellow and orange, as well as seedless long English cucumbers and mini cucumbers.”

Village Farms grows, markets and distributes a total of about 400 acres of hydroponic greenhouse vegetables that are produced in high-tech glass houses. Of this figure, 232 acres are company owned facilities located in Texas and British Columbia, Canada. It markets the remaining acres of production through its exclusive partner-grower program located throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

“Because we grow in resource-efficient environmentally sustainable glass greenhouses, where elements such as watering and ambient temperatures are controlled, we are able to produce great tasting high-quality fruits and vegetables 365 days a year,” said Ms. Aquino. “We have a strong retail channel mix of customers across the board, from mom-and-pop retailers to big box clubs, some foodservice operations, wholesalers and terminal markets. Our distribution range extends throughout the U.S. and Canada.”

Ms. Aquino said that she feels that the economy is still on the minds of many people, and is the reason the company is seeing a shift toward the number of meals that consumers prepare at home.

“With the focus on fresh and health-conscious meal planning, our great-tasting tomatoes, sweet bell peppers and cucumber varieties have become staples in home kitchens,” she added. “Because we can offer consistent quality products 365 days a year, we are finding this trend more popular with the items we offer. Consumers send us e-mails, call us by phone and we even get regular mail telling us how great tasting our produce is. ‘Flavor they remember as kids’ and ‘garden fresh’ are descriptors we hear over and over again.”

Village Farms recently broke ground on a new 30-acre greenhouse in Monahans, TX. The facility is modeled after the company’s “Gates” proprietary technology. Ms. Aquino said it will be like no other hydroponic greenhouse in the world.

"In fact, it will be our most resource-efficient project to date," she said. "It will utilize 40 percent of its electrical needs from wind power."

Village Farms’ Monahans greenhouse will be the 12th greenhouse that the company has developed, built, acquired or operated over the past 22 years.

Producing locally grown greenhouse vegetables has always been a big part of Village Farms’ business model, and it drives one of the company’s key strategies. Determining the location of its greenhouse and distribution center projects, it has always been driven by its customer needs and its desire to meet customer expectations for quality fresh produce.