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Ventura County Sustainability Exchange hosts one‐stop-shop sustainability event

In conjunction with this year's PMA Fresh Summit, the growers and distributors of Ventura County are inviting fresh produce industry members into their backyards for the Ventura County Sustainability Exchange. This unique collaborative event brings together top growers from throughout the region to put Ventura County on the map and show the industry why it is a one‐stop‐shop for sustainably grown produce.

“Buyers from all over the country will be impressed to see the substantial investments that Ventura County producers have made to incorporate sustainability into producing their products,” John Chamberlain, director of marketing for Limoneira, said in a press release. “The Ventura County Sustainability Exchange will firmly establish the county as the one‐stop‐shop for sustainable produce.”

VCSE invitees will be able to experience the operations of these growers first hand, as leading companies like Limoneira, Calavo, San Miguel Produce, Agromin, Deardorff Family Farms and Houweling's Tomatoes invite them along for tours of their fields and facilities. For example, guests will visit the Limoneira and Calavo Headquarters in Santa Paula, CA, to tour its 2MG solar facilities and learn about their waste-management practices and high-density planting.

Star power will be there to greet VCSE attendees throughout their stay. Refreshments will be provided by Nobu mixologist Brian Leon in Limoneira's orchards. Dinner will be catered by the culinary expertise of Chef Jason Collis, who will be turning the local produce of Ventura County's growers into gourmet culinary creations.

Before savoring Collins' cooking however, renowned comedian Patrick Martin will take center stage. With the same blend of humor and captivating visual illusions that has taken him before such prestigious audiences as the White House, the Olympic Arts Festival and top Fortune 500 corporations, VCSE attendees will be in for a night to remember.

Guest speakers during the event will include the Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales, Food Share Inc. President Bonnie Weigel and Kathleen Phillips, the supply chain sustainability manager for Pro*Act.

More consumers than ever are looking for healthy, sustainable food choices. The search for products that retailers can sell to this growing body has consumers has lead buyers and produce experts of all stripes to Ventura County.

At the end of their two-day trip through the fields and operations of these growers, VCSE attendees will understand first-hand what makes the county a leader in sustainability for the fresh produce community.

"VCSE would like to thank its sponsors, Cool Planet, Agromin, Driscoll's, Houweling’s, San Miguel, Deardorff, Limoneira and Calavo, for making this event possible," VCSE said in the release.

Wonderful Halos and Mulholland Citrus collaborate to expand Mandarin market

Paramount Citrus and Mulholland Citrus have entered into a partnership in which Paramount will be the exclusive sales agent for Mulholland's Mandarins and Mulholland Citrus will grow and pack its Mandarins under the "Wonderful Halos" brand. The goal of the partnership is to expand the consumption and category of Mandarins across North America by consolidating volume in the "Wonderful Halos" Mandarin brand.

Along with partner Fowler Packing, these citrus operations in the Central Valley of California are committed to guarantee the superior taste, quality, freshness and consistency that consumers have come to expect from Wonderful Halos. This is made possible by the sharing of high-standard growing, packing and shipping practices that manage production from tree to table.

“We are focused on working with other like-minded quality farmers to grow the overall Mandarin category within the citrus industry,” David Krause, president of Paramount Citrus, said in a press release. “Working closely with the highly experienced citrus growers at Mulholland Citrus is a logical next step to reinforce the transformation of Mandarins into one of America’s most popular produce items.”

In season from November to April, "Wonderful Halos" is a premium California Mandarin brand and one of the fastest-growing brands in America’s produce aisles.

“At Mulholland Citrus, we share the same values and a similar vision as Paramount Citrus to expand the market for Mandarins and use the power of a well-known brand like 'Wonderful Halos' to reach an ever-increasing number of consumers,” Tom Mulholland, owner of Mulholland Citrus, said in the release. “Both of our companies are strongly rooted in California agriculture, and we believe we can help each other give America a healthy alternative as the perfect snack.”

Last year, Paramount Citrus announced its intensions to spend a record $100 million in marketing between 2013 and 2018 to grow the Mandarin category and help increase consumer demand, which benefits all citrus growers. Paramount has invested in marketing and brand awareness-building as part of an integrated, national campaign to market the “pure goodness” and uniquely delicious taste of the sweet, seedless, easy-to-peel fruit. Demand across the industry has grown exponentially over the last few years. Due to the new collaboration with Mulholland, retail customers can expect a larger supply of Mandarins available for the 2014-15 season.

Sutherland Produce expands management team, introduces new brand and website

Sutherland Produce Sales Inc. announced the addition of an industry veteran as vice president of the company, the appointment of a chief financial officer, and the launch of a new brand and website to support the continued growth of the 27-year-old business.southlo

Chris Ford joined the executive staff as vice president responsible for operations, marketing and for the strategic planning, program development and overall management of the company’s growers. He brings to Sutherland over 20 years of organic produce experience in various domestic and international procurement, management, marketing and sales roles. Ford previously held senior global produce buyer and management positions with Whole Foods Market.

In addition, after serving Sutherland Produce as an independent financial contractor for the past 16 years, Cindy Platko was permanently added as chief financial officer. She brings over 30 years of financial and operations experience helping small, rapid-growth companies in all aspects of accounting, tax planning, office management and client relations.

“I am very excited to be expanding our management team with these two, very talented industry veterans,” Bill Sutherland, president, said in a press release. “I have been involved in the organic industry from its earliest days. It’s very rewarding to see the steady, positive growth in consumer confidence and in the sales of organic produce. The addition of Chris and Cindy is yet another step in better serving our customers, our customers’ customers and the industry at large."

Among Ford’s first steps in directing the company’s marketing was to create a new, refreshed brand and website for the company. The new company logo takes on a clean, modern look while emphasizing its heritage of providing “Organically Delicious Produce Since 1987.” The new look and brand strategy was then carried forward into the development of the company’s first comprehensive website.

Now online at www.sutherlandproduce.com, the site includes a historical perspective of Bill Sutherland’s role as one of the early industry pioneers who helped define, shape and establish the standards and laws that govern organic farming today. It also includes a summary of the growers Sutherland serves and the company’s current lineup of organic fruit and vegetables.

“I’m very pleased to bring new ideas and services with a retailer’s perspective to the table,” Ford said in the press release. “With Bill’s great dedication, knowledge and history serving the industry, I’m very excited about the potential and where this company is headed."

New website provides farm food-safety news and resources

The California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement has completely revised its website to provide easier access to a wealth of news, information and resources concerning leafy greens food safety and this important program created in 2007.

The opening page of the new website takes users quickly to the most important news item of the moment, highlights the organization’s current Twitter post and is followed immediately by two of the most-visited sections of the website: the LGMA’s mandatory food-safety practices and the list of certified LGMA members.

Scrolling down, users can read the LGMA’s recent blog posts, which provide regular commentary on the organization’s activities and important topics on produce food safety. To encourage readership, all blog posts can be shared directly from the website to a user's Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts.

The blog section is followed by graphic links to three key topic areas: a special section designed to provide updates and background on the Food Safety Modernization Act and its effects on the leafy greens community; information on the LGMA’s comprehensive training program known as LGMA Tech; and a section with resources for LGMA members, including meeting notices and downloads for a number of important documents.  As with the previous site, the new website offers complete copies of the LGMA audit checklist for both announced and unannounced audits.

The home page of the site is rounded out by direct links to a series of videos designed to quickly educate the public about the organization, its mandatory government audit system, the impact of food-safety practices on the environment and an overview of the California leafy greens industry and how product is grown.

The website is easily accessible on a desktop, tablet or cell phone.

“This new site has so much information and makes it all incredibly easy to access and share,” Phil Adrian of Coastline Family Farms and chairman of the LGMA’s communications committee, said in a press release. “We’re really encouraging people to visit the site, particularly those of us in the industry who have a role in spreading the word about this very successful program and its value to consumers, retail and foodservice operators and our own leafy greens producers.”

Also available on the site are direct links to the LGMA social media channels so people can follow the program and its activities online. Users can also sign up to receive a newsletter which is targeted to specific audiences so that e-mails updates can be tailored to subscribers’ primary interest areas.

“The site is very much constructed with the end-user in mind,” April Ward, LGMA communications director, said in the release. “We have special sections for members, retail and foodservice operations, media and health/wellness professionals. This allows us to provide these audiences with easier access to the information they are likely to be most interested in. It is really a very well organized site. We hope people use it, enjoy it and share it with others. We’re hoping it becomes the go-to resource for information on leafy greens food safety.”

Colombia Pavilion to feature 24 exporters during PMA Fresh Summit

The Colombian Pavilion at the 2014 Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit Exposition will offer buyers the chance to link up with 24 Colombian exporters.

PastedGraphic-1These growers-exporters represent exports of avocado, goldenberry (uchuva), pineapple, herbs and limes, some of which are new opportunities for sourcing in the U.S. marketplace. Visitors to the Colombia Pavilion will be able to meet with the exporters as well as promotion representatives and learn more about the new developments allowing for successful export of these products.

In addition, the Colombia Pavilion will feature two professional baristas serving up Colombian coffee and Colombian fruit smoothies.

"We are eager to share the wonderful treasure in food our country has to offer," Maria Claudia Lacouture, president of Proexport Colombia in Bogota, said in a press release. "Our experienced exporters are looking forward to exploring opportunities in the U.S. and other markets and developing new relationships."

While some of the available products such as fresh herbs, limes and pineapple have been readily available from Colombia, recent market changes have renewed interest in Colombia as a source.

In the case of goldenberry, Colombia is now approved for entry into the U.S. without cold treatment from certain parts of the country -- a unique opportunity affecting both quality and speed of import. Colombia is also on its way to obtaining admissibility for Hass avocados.

Specifically represented at the Colombia Pavilion are at least seven companies handling fresh herbs, 10 with goldenberry, nine with avocados and three with pineapple, as well as others with limes, plantains, dried fruits and other exotic fruits.

Several of the exporters also offer organic and/or Fair Trade-certified products.

Country representatives look forward to exploring additional products and opportunities with interested parties. Attendees are encouraged to stop by the Colombian Pavilion (booth No. 4629) to find out more about what Colombia has to offer.