NOGALES, AZ — Jorge (George) Gotsis Cevallos, owner and president of Omega Produce Co. Inc., here, has been working in the West Mexico produce business for 65 years and has been with Omega for 50 years.
He first began to work for Omega, his sister’s company at the time, in 1951. He then became a partner, and he began buying the remaining shares in 1961.
Recognized as an industry pioneer and honored in 2010 by the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas in Nogales as one of the two first-year recipients of the association’s Pillar of the FPAA award, Mr. Gotsis began his produce career helping with his father’s farming operations for five years following World War II. They were, at the time, growing tomatoes in the states of Sonora and Sinaloa in Mexico for the U.S. market. “My dad went down there” and started farming in 1920, he told The Produce News Nov. 9.
In an earlier interview with The Produce News in Nov. 2010, Mr. Gotsis recalled that the first year he was helping out on the farm in Mexico, his father lost two-thirds of his crop to freeze damage from two separate freeze events in different growing areas.
As it happened, just three months after that interview, in early February 2011, Sinaloa and Sonora experienced another widespread freeze, the most severe in over half a century and probably the most widespread in more years than that. Omega’s growers, along with many others, experienced severe crop losses.
In the 1940s, “we used to freeze every year ... but never like last year,” Mr. Gotsis said in the Nov. 9 interview.
He expects a resurgence in production for the 2011-12 season. Plantings are expected to be about the same, but “there will be an increase in volume” over last year “unless we have weather problems again,” he said.
The company’s main items are Roma tomatoes, round tomatoes, green Bell peppers, colored Bell peppers, cucumbers, mini-cukes, Kabocha Squash mainly for Japan, Poblanos and “a few beans, not many,” he said.
The products are packed in the “Omega and “Tri-Nation” house labels as well as in various grower labels.
The Gotsis family continues to have farming operations in Mexico. Mr. Gotsis’ sons, Robert and George Jr., are involved in the farming side of the business. Another son, Nick, is vice president at Omega, and a son-in-law, Toru Fujiwara, is an officer in the corporation and has been with the company 38 years. A third son, Mark, works for Omega as well.
On the production side, “this will be our 90th year of farming,” he said. “We are still here, thank God. Hopefully, my sons and grandson will stay in after I am gone. I have one grandson and 16 granddaughters. My grandson works in Mexico with my sons Robert and George.”