NOGALES, AZ — Rick Burkett, who was previously on sales at J.C. Distributing, has been named director of sales at GreenPoint Distributing LLC, here, replacing long-time Sales Manager Sergio Huerta, who left to take a position as general sales manager at the new Nogales office of Mesa, AZ-based Delightful Quality Produce Co. LLC.
“I am very excited with my new position,” Mr. Burkett told The Produce News Nov. 11. “I am replacing a gentleman that left here who was ... a good friend of mine and a great person. He had an opportunity to take on a new challenge,” and the resulting opening at GreenPoint “was just such a good fit for what I was looking to do.”
Since starting at GreenPoint July 15, Mr. Burkett has hired two new salespeople. “We expanded the sales staff over what it had been the prior 11 years” with the anticipation of increased volume due to new commodities being brought into the company’s programs.
Mr. Burkett said that he had worked the previous year at J.C. Distributing. The Chamberlains, who own J.C., are “a great family,” and it was “a great company,” he said. Unfortunately, last year’s freeze in Mexico left J.C. without “a whole lot of product to sell. That circumstance also made Mr. Burkett open to the opportunity when, as he said, “I was approached by the growers, the owners of this company.”
Previously, Mr. Burkett had been at Farmer’s Best for about five years. “Farmer’s Best is also another great company and a great family to work for,” and they are “terrific growers,” he said. In fact, “I have nothing bad to say about any of my previous employers. It has been a great education for me — all of the opportunities I have had.”
Before Farmer’s Best, Mr. Burkett spent 13 years as manager of the Safeway buying office in Nogales. “Part of my job at that time was to go visit growers in Mexico and see which ones were actually up to producing ... the kind of volume that Safeway took,” he said.
In his new position at GreenPoint, he has “stepped into a challenge,” he said, “because GreenPoint wants to get big enough” to service national and international accounts.
Remaining on sales are Alfred Nunes and Francisco (Frankie) Figueroa. “They are very familiar with the programs” that the company has had, Mr. Burkett said. New are Rachel Espinosa, who was previously with Fresh Farms, and Steve Spence, “who came over from Malena” and who had worked previously with Mr. Burkett at Farmer’s Best.
“I am fortunate enough to work with a great team, and I’m excited about the new products here in Nogales that we are on the verge or starting,” Mr. Burkett said.
“Rick is a great person,” said Fabiola Cuen, general manager and managing partner in GreenPoint, a grower-owned company with farming operations based in Sonora, Mexico. “He has lots of experience. It is something that we had been looking for for quite some time, [in someone] to be the leader of the sales department. He is a very hard-working man” and honest, she said. “The company is expanding, and we needed somebody with his experience to deal with a higher volume of product as well as to be a manager of the sales staff.”
GreenPoint has “probably 18 or 20 commodities that we handle on a normal basis,” including most of the traditional Nogales items, Mr. Burkett said. Among them are Roma tomatoes, regular cucumbers, Euro cukes, “all of the hot peppers,” soft- and hard-shell squash, watermelons and sweet corn. GreenPoint is one of the larger suppliers of sweet corn out of Nogales.”
Ms. Cuen said that several years ago there were other companies that handled more sweet corn than GreenPoint, “but I think GreenPoint right now is the number one. We get bi-colored, white, and yellow sweet corn.”
The company’s corn acreage is up this year, Mr. Burkett said. “Also, we have increased our acreage quite a bit” in hard-shell squash. “We have taken on probably three times as much as we had in the past.”
This season, “we are looking at rolling out non-traditional Nogales items,” such as head lettuce, Romaine, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and carrots, he said. They are being grown by a grower in Obregon, Sonora, who has been a grower with GreenPoint “for quite a while. I have seen his facilities in Mexico. They are as advanced as anything I have seen in the United States,” he said.
In December, “we should start to see the production on some of those non-traditional Nogales items,” he said. The season will correspond closely with the Yuma, AZ, season on many of those same items. “It is not a huge volume to start, but something to get our feet wet.”
By having those products available in Nogales, Mr. Burkett said, it will “save our customers the freight [costs]“ of having to run a partially filled truck between Yuma and Nogales to pick up all of the items. Now, a customer can load all of the items and fill the truck at one place. “It is a good opportunity to expand our commodity base,” he said.
The products are packed in various labels. The “GreenPoint” label is used mainly for company-grown products. Among the others are “Farmer’s Choice” and “Happy.”
“We do have numerous different growers, mostly in northern Mexico,” he said. They are very proud of their labels and like to keep their own identity. Many of the labels have a lot of history, he said.
GreenPoint will not be limiting its sourcing to Mexico. The company has “a very aggressive growth plan in place over the next three years” that will involve “doing some off-shore” sourcing of products out of The Dominican and possibly Honduras, he said.