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Braga Fresh adds cauliflower to Josie’s Organics line

Organic cauliflower is the newest fresh vegetable Braga Fresh Family Farms has added to its sustainable, premium-quality, certified USDA organic line of produce: Josie’s Organics.

Josie’s Organics cauliflower is currently available, both wrapped and naked.Josies-Organics-Cauliflower The wrapped product will allow retailers to take full advantage of the popular and award-winning Josie’s Organics packaging with its friendly logo and signature blue polka dots.

Retailer demand for Josie’s Organics products has continued to increase since Braga Fresh launched the brand approximately two years ago, and Braga Fresh has more than doubled its acreage committed to the Josie’s Organics product line in order to meet retail customer demand this winter season.

“One of the benefits of being a vertically integrated grower-shipper is we can respond very quickly to retailer needs and consumer trends,” Peter Cling, vice president of sales at Braga Fresh, said in a press release. “Plus, we’ve been growing organically for nearly 20 years, we control a lot of organic farmland in California and Arizona — and we are acquiring and converting more land all the time — so we’re well positioned to consistently deliver on our commitment to providing premium service as well as premium-quality product.”

In addition to cauliflower, the Josie’s Organics line includes broccoli, sweet baby broccoli, celery, chard, collards, kale, spinach, beets, cilantro, parsley, radishes, romaine hearts, green leaf and red leaf, and new products are always in trial.

Josie’s Organics products can be found in most Whole Foods, Central Market, Kroger, HEB and Safeway locations throughout the United States, as well as in many other grocery stores and supermarkets.

National Mango Board gears up for its new era in 2015

As the year comes to an end, the National Mango Board is getting ready for its new era of development and transitions with Executive Director William Watson handing over the reins to Manuel Michel, the new executive director. The NMB is also armed with a new director of marketing, a new strategic plan, a new vision and new

Michel has been on board since September 2014 working alongside Watson as he integrated himself into his new role. Today, the NMB has fully transitioned to its new executive director just in time for the holiday season and the beginning of 2015.

“Knowing Manuel will be at the helm for the NMB’s next chapter is reassuring," Watson said in a press release. "Thank you for the opportunity and your support. I will miss everyone."

The NMB also appointed Rachel Muñoz as its new director of marketing. She is currently overseeing marketing and public relations for consumer, nutrition, retail and foodservice programs, as well as managing trade shows and website communications.

“William created the NMB and brought together an industry with a unified vision for increasing mango consumption in the U.S.," Muñoz said in the release. "He has set a solid foundation for Manuel to build on and I look forward to being a part of these plans to grow the success of the NMB."

A new strategic plan has been set for 2015-17 that will provide the backbone of the NMB programs: marketing, research and industry relations. The 2015 marketing program will include ongoing consumer marketing strategies such as sponsoring of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer League. Ongoing marketing efforts will also include nutrition PR and marketing, retail marketing and promotions, and foodservice PR and marketing.

Research program efforts will focus on mango nutrition and health, as well as an increased focus on mango quality and postharvest practices research.

The Industry Relations program will work toward enhancing industry communication and preparedness to create a unified mango industry. This program will also focus on the Continuance Referendum — to be be held April 6-17, 2015 — where mango industry members will have the chance to vote on the NMB’s continuation.

These programs will work together to accomplish the NMB’s mission, which is to increase consumption of fresh mangos in the U.S. through innovative research and promotional activities, while fostering a thriving industry.

The NMB has also updated its vision statement: To bring the world’s love of mangos to the U.S. Lastly, the NMB website,, redesign will be launching in 2015. The new intuitive design will allow consumers and industry members to navigate the site easier and will be fully responsive with mobile phones and tablets.

“It has been an honor to work with William and to have him as a mentor for the last four months," Michel said. "He has been a great leader for the mango industry and has paved the road for years ahead. 2015 and the next two years that follow will be very significant to the NMB and the mango industry as we continue to expand our programs and implement new initiatives.”

Cub Foods donates to Susan G. Komen through Robinson Fresh program

Longtime Twin Cities grocer Cub Foods recently presented Susan G. Komen Minnesota with $30,134, which was raised through participation in Robinson Fresh’s MelonUp! Pink Ribbon watermelon program.

The MelonUp! Pink Ribbon Watermelon program is a cause-marketing program that offers retailers, such as Cub Foods, the chance to give back to their local communities through retail sales of watermelon.Cub-Foods-and-Robinson-Fresh-present-SGK-with-donation-checkSteve Irland and Carrie Higgs of Cub Foods, Denise Blumberg-Tendle and Larry Friendman of Susan G. Komen Minnesota, and Terry Schreifels, Eric Chamberlain, Cara Pingel and Matt Sasek of Robinson Fresh. Since the program’'s inception, Robinson Fresh has donated over $1 million to breast cancer research organizations throughout North America on behalf of participating retailers.

"“We appreciate the continued support from Cub Foods and Robinson Fresh through donation funds, volunteer hours and awareness efforts,”" David Egan, co-executive director at Susan G. Komen Minnesota, said in a press release. "“Through advanced treatment and better understanding, we are driving toward putting an end to breast cancer.”"

Through the program, Cub Foods has donated over $84,500 to Susan G. Komen Minnesota since 2010. According to Susan G. Komen Minnesota, up to 75 percent of the funds donated remain in Minnesota to cover every step of the breast health journey from education and outreach, to diagnostics and surgeries to financial support.

Another goal of the program is to continue to educate consumers about the various health benefits of consuming watermelon. According to the American Cancer Society, watermelon contains four times more lycopene, a cancer fighting agent, than tomatoes. Watermelon is also rich in a number of vitamins and is fat and cholesterol-free.


California rain storms: all good for ag

Though the wet weather that has drenched California over the past week has snarled traffic and created flooding issues in some low-lying areas, it is basically all good for agriculture.

From the Central Valley to the Central Coast to Southern California, growers have been smiling as the skies have opened up for the first time in seemingly years. “It’s pure water and it’s free; it’s all good,” said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp. in Econdido, CA, which is in northern San Diego County.

“We’re happy to see it,” said Bob Cordova, president of EpicVeg Inc., which is headquartered in Lompoc, CA, between Santa Barbara and Santa Maria.

Even as streets were flooding, state water officials were reminding folks that the drought is not yet over. Officials from the state’s Department of Water Resources said California needs about five or six of these storms this winter and spring to have an above-average water year and to begin to make up the deficits racked up over the past three years. As a case in point, DWR pointed to three of California’s largest reservoirs. The warm storm that passed through the state Dec. 10-12 allowed Oroville, Shasta and Folsom reservoirs to rise for the first time since last spring. But each of those reservoirs, which provide much of agriculture with the summer irrigation water it needs, still stand at only about one-third of capacity.

For the drought to be declared over, several cold weather storms that drop snow in the higher elevations are needed. Currently, the snow pack remains below normal. Each year’s snowpack and spring runoff provides California with the vast majority of its reservoir water.

But there is no doubt that the rains have helped. Rain gauges from Eureka near the Oregon border to San Diego near the Mexico border are registering precipitation amounts well above normal for this time of year. Today, Dec. 15, in the midst of another storm, Eureka had already received 40 percent of its normal yearly average. San Diego was also at the 40 percent level. The state’s chief hydrologist, Maury Roos, cautioned that the drought was not over, but over the weekend he was quoted widely stating that personally he was feeling “kind of optimistic” about the end of the drought.

As far as agriculture was concerned, citrus growers in the Central Valley were saying the rain could do wonders for the Navel crop, helping to size the fruit and possibly produce a larger crop than has been predicted. They said the rainy weather also lessened the chance of a devastating frost. Henry said the same sizing effect can happen for California avocados. Speaking on Dec. 15, he said growers have received a steady slow rain for most of the past week, which is a best-case scenario. The trees can utilize the water without erosion or runoff issues in the grove.

While Cordova was equally happy about the rain, he said a week of wet weather has kept the planting crews inside and behind schedule. “We have to pay attention 90-105 days down the road,” he said. “There’s going to be a gap. We are planting right now for the March harvest and we haven’t been able to get into the fields for about seven days.”

Depending upon how much rain there is over the next week — and a wet week is forecast — it might be two weeks before planting operations return to normal levels. There is a lot of weather between now and the spring harvest but Cordova said at about the time the western vegetable harvest is transitioning from the desert back to the coastal and central valleys, there will almost undoubtedly be some type of gap.

In the meantime, growers are welcoming as many rain storms as they get as each one produces better water at a cheaper price than the wells or the reservoirs.

Industry veteran Suzanne Wolter leaves Rainier Fruit Co.

Longtime Washington tree fruit marketer Suzanne Wolter has left Rainier Fruit Co. Dec. 3 after nearly 13 years as director of marketing.

“It would have been 13 years in January,” Wolter told The Produce News Dec. 15. “I came on board shortly before the Washington Apple Commission dissolved its domestic marketing efforts, and I feel as though I built Rainier's marketing department from the ground up, putting together a great new team.”SuzanneWolter RainierFruit OrchardSuzanne Wolter

When asked what comes next, Wolter said, “What I accomplished over the last 10 years at Rainier and the professional growth that has afforded me,  I am ready for a new challenge and bigger opportunity.”

For a number of years, Wolter had been based out of Chicago, where her husband, Greg, maintained their Illinois home. She divided her time between that city and the Selah, WA, offices of Rainier. In recent years, however, Wolter's position as marketing director at Rainier called for more travel, and she said, “When I wasn't traveling, my husband was coming here.”

She added, “He is very flexible, and he said wherever I want to go, that's great.”

The couple spent the week following Wolter's departure from Rainier on a cruise to the Caribbean, and she said now that they're back in Chicago, she plans on having a “really great December.”

Rainier President Mark Zirkle said on Dec. 15 Wolter's leaving was “completely amicable,” and he added, “We wish her the very best of luck in her new ventures.”

“She's done very good work here,” Zirkle continued. “It's just a matter of going in different directions now.”

The produce veteran's career was launched with a bachelor's degree in agricultural business from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, where she was also involved with the National Agricultural Marketing Association and a member of Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

Putting that degree to good use for more than two decades, Wolter started in the industry with the Tom Lange Co. in California and then moved to Dole, where she worked in citrus in the Chicago office. In 2000 she moved from Dole's Chicago office to its Wenatchee, WA, operation, switching from citrus to tree fruit before joining Rainier in 2002.

Wolter has also been active in industry organizations. She has been on the boards for the U.S. Apple Committee and the Produce for Better Health Foundation.