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Fresh Farms marks fifth anniversary and five years of growth

Marco Serrano, Jerry Havel and Alan Voll of Fresh Farms.

NOGALES, AZ — “We just celebrated our fifth anniversary,” said Jerry Havel, director of sales and marketing at Fresh Farms, here, Nov. 7. And during that five years, it has been one of the faster-growing grower-shippers in Nogales. This year, we are going to continue that growth.”

The growth in the company’s sixth season will consist of increases in many of its traditional items as well as the addition of some new items.

New items for Fresh Farms for 2011-12 are green beans, green and red Bell peppers, and Roma tomatoes, he said.

Leading the items that will see volume increases are cucumbers. “We have tripled our cucumber volume” for the coming season, he said.

The company will hold steady in the squash category, however. “We’ve got a lot of squash,” Mr. Havel said. “We do over a million boxes of soft squash, and we feel that is probably enough.”

The increased volumes will come partly from in-house production, partly from existing outside growers and partly from new outside growers.

The Molina family, which owns Fresh Farms and grows much of the produce handled by the company, “grow the cucumbers,” Mr. Havel said. “They are also going to grow the green and red Bell peppers.”

The Roma tomatoes are from an outside grower, “a grower of ours who just decided to get into the Roma business,” he said. The green beans are coming from two outside growers who are new to Fresh Farms.

With all commodities taken into account, “we are anticipating a big year,” and with the addition of the four new items, “we feel that we are going to be able to attract more customers here,” he said.

Customers will be able to “have one-stop shopping and load more mixed loads here” rather than just buying squash from Fresh Farms and then going somewhere else for the other items, he said.

Fresh Farms does “a lot of hard squash” as well as soft squash, Mr. Havel said. “We do Spaghetti, Acorn and butternut as well as Kabocha.” In addition, “this time of year, we are doing watermelons and we are doing honeydew melons.” And in the spring, it is large in table grapes.”

Through the winter, the main commodities will be soft squash, hard squash, cucumbers, Romas, red and green Bells, and green beans, all packed under the “Fresh Farms” label for number-one product.

“We have developed this year a number-two label ... called ‘Bullseye,’“ he said. “We will pack that only when the price of the number ones is high enough to merit packing a number two.”

Cucumber markets have been excellent so far this year, he said. Soft-squash markets have dragged a bit at times, but “we are anticipating a good year.”

The green Bell harvest was about to start, and hard-shell squash and green beans were expected to start the following week. Production was mainly in the Hermosillo and Guaymas areas in Sonora, Mexico, with the Romas coming from Obregon, Sonora.

Over the next several months, Fresh Farms will be expanding its warehousing capability in Nogales, according to Mr. Havel. The company has bought a piece of property adjacent to its present facility and demolished the building that was on it. In its place, “we are building another cold storage that [at 40,000 square feet] is going to be bigger than this one ... so we will have two coolers next to each other” and more than double the company’s existing cold-storage capacity. The hope is that the new facility will be finished by May 1, in time for the spring Sonora grape season.