Gurdeep Billan, director of sales for Double D Farms in Fresno, CA, told The Produce News that the company is one of the larger growers of organic asparagus in the country, with near year-round supplies from Mexico from September through April.
“We also farm conventional asparagus from the same area,” said Mr. Billan. “Our organic line also includes domestically grown cantaloupe, honeydew and mixed melons. These are produced in California’s Imperial and central San Joaquin valleys for a May through September program.”
He added that the company is expanding its melon season this fall with organic cantaloupes from Baja California, Mexico, which will complete its year-round supply.
Double D Farms also produces organic onions and blueberries, and it has an extensive winter vegetable program with broccoli, celery and cabbage in both conventional and organic options.
The company is currently hitting peak production of organic and conventional blueberries, organic cantaloupe, dry onions and sweet corn.
Double D also has farms in the San Luis Valley in Sonora, Mexico, and the Imperial Valley in Southern California. Its primary customers are small chain and large chain retailers, wholesalers, distributors, foodservice operations and processors. It ships nationwide and exports to foreign countries.
Mr. Billan said that although some may disagree, the current state of the economy has actually benefited the produce industry.
“Consumer purchasing habits have been diverted back to shopping at their local retail grocery stores to cook more foods at home,” he said. “The pressures in the economy have also had an effect on consumers realizing the importance of staying healthy, especially with the growing obesity epidemic crisis. The result is an increase in the demand for fresh produce.”
Mr. Billan said the company is currently in a major growth phase. Its sales continue to increase annually as it aligns with customers to meet their needs, while assisting them in growing their organic category.
“We continue to improve our operations annually within all areas of our company,” he said. “And we will continue to utilize our internal resources to become more efficient in the areas we operate in.
“As head of our operation, Randy Johnston, our general manager of operations, brings over 25 years of farming, sales and operations experience to our team,” Mr. Billan continued. “Aaron Winslow, a sales representative, has an extensive sales background primarily in organic produce. He introduced and marketed organic stone fruit for the Olson Family Farms. He is a great asset to our team. Our sales coordinator, Chris Carbajal, also a great asset, is responsible for support in all of our sales and marketing efforts. He comes from a vast field operations and distribution background.”
Mr. Billan started working for Double D Farms in January. He comes from an extensive retail procurement environment.
“I recently worked for Save Mart supermarkets as a category manager,” he said. “Prior to then I worked for Safeway and for Kroger as a produce buyer.”
Mr. Billan also teaches part time at the University of Phoenix in the College of Business.
He said that he feels the locally grown movement is having a positive effect on the organic segment.
“It’s good for the produce industry as a whole,” he said. “It is helping to educate and persuade consumers to eating healthier by providing key nutritional information, regardless of if it is locally grown or not.”
He added that produce professionals work in a highly dynamic industry in which people have to create, access and continue to meet the needs of consumers.
“Organic Produce consumption continues to increase annually, and as premium growers of fresh organic produce, we are committed to meeting this need,” he said. “Locally grown trends are creating additional outlets of distribution which have created added demand for produce commodities whether they are local, organic or conventional.”