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Organic stone fruit movement for 2011 starting at Global Organic

Ronni Blumenthal, vice president of administration for Global Organic Specialty Source in Sarasota, FL, told The Produce News that stone fruit season is starting for the company.

“We are excited about pluots,” said Ms. Blumenthal. “We will also have the last of the Florida crops available, which include wonderful crimson watermelons and burgundy okra. And our close relationship with two Chilean growers provides us with a strong apple and squash program that is currently in place.”

Global Organic is a wholesale organic produce distributor now in its 13th year in business. The company also offers a custom repack program for both large and small customers. Its line is produced seasonally. It focuses on locally grown produce first, and then moves to regional and other areas as needed to meet its customers’ needs. The company routinely sources produce from California. It distributes throughout the Southeastern United States — from Florida to the Carolinas.

“We have an extremely diverse customer base with a fast growing segment of independent buying clubs,” said Ms. Blumenthal. “We serve every segment, including major and independent chain retailers, foodservice operators and industrial operations.”

Ms. Blumenthal said that the company has experienced measured growth since it started, and it has not felt a negative impact due to the recession. Rather, she feels that people who eat organic food make a conscious choice to do so.

“They will source it one way or another, whether it is through one of our customers or in a local farmers market,” she said. “We do believe the rising fuel costs are impacting people’s buying patterns. They may go to one store whereas they previously shopped at multiple locations. We think the increase in buying clubs out of people’s homes may be connected to this issue.”

In its ongoing commitment to food safety, Global Organic once again received its Primus Lab certification this year.

Ms. Blumenthal said that despite the economy the company has continued to increase its staff.

“We consider this to be a significant achievement in an area with exceptionally high unemployment,” she said. “We have also partnered with local sources for eggs and meat at the request of our customers.”

Ms. Blumenthal feels that the locally grown movement is having a varied effect on the organic category.

“We strongly advocate certified-organic produce, and that is all we carry,” she said. “Many local farms claim to use organic methods but they lack certification or use conventional methods of farming. While we certainly support fellow farmers, someone who uses conventional methods may have a footprint equal to or exceeding that of produce we bring in from out of state.

“We do think people are more mindful of where they are sourcing their food and we support that 100 percent,” Ms. Blementhal continued. “We say ‘Know your farmer’ is the best policy. We provide farm profiles and share information about our growers with our customers. Mitch [Blumenthal, chief executive officer] visits our growers regularly. He just came back from Chile where he watched our harvest from field to packinghouse.”

She said that thanks to an explosion of literature, film, blogs and events, people are increasingly tuned in to where their food comes from and what they do and do not want to put into their bodies. She therefore expects the interest in organic consumption to continue to be on the rise, adding,

“We see more and more large conventional farms offering certified organic products,” she said.

Global Organic recently announced the appointment of Tammy Storm to the position of director of transportation. Ms. Blumenthal said Ms. Storm has taken on the challenge of logistics and the company is happy to have her on board.

“We really like the saying ‘Vote with your fork,’ “ she said. “We encourage people to speak on the local, state and national levels with their representatives to advocate for a safe, healthy food system for everyone.”