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Main Street Produce getting input from young team members

Main Street Produce, located in the fertile Santa Maria Valley of California, has been working with strawberries for more than 40 years, and the fall berry season is an important one for the company.

“Strawberries are the bread and butter of what we do,” said Paul Allen, president and sales director of the company. “It represents approximately 75 percent of the company’s efforts and expenses.”

The company farms its own product through its sister company, Freshway Farms, and packs the produce at its own top-of-the-line facility so that it is never dependent upon outside growers or packers.

Main Street Produce also has a valuable broccoli program with some of its growers rotating the crop behind the strawberry program. Other crops used in this regard are Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, and that trio makes up the rest of the company’s product assortment.

IMG-1952Alex Oliveras and Ben Adam. “We’re working with the same varieties we have had — mostly Monterrey varieties. This is our 36th strawberry season so sometimes we stick to what works as opposed to trying something new,” Allen said. “We do have some new things on the horizon that will be exciting. For next year, we have a good strong program developing from a couple of new guys out of the Cal Poly Strawberry program, and our program is strong.”

When it comes to packaging, the company is seeing an increase of two-pound packages over previous years.

“We used to pack 20-25 percent in the past but now we’re seeing numbers coming in closer to 40 percent range from some of the chain stores,” Allen said. “The three- and four-pound are very scarce these days and we rarely pack those anymore.”

The fall strawberry crop started a bit later this year than the norm due to heavy rain, but Allen expected everything would catch up volume-wise by September, though he doesn’t think the company — or industry — will hit the yields reached last year, which produced record-breaking results.

“To have success with berries you need knowledgeable, experienced people growing, maintaining and supervising, along with a strong marketing department,” Allen said. “You also need good branches to grow the crops. Put those together — stay with it — and even through a bad year or two, and you will find success.”

All of this reflects the company’s belief that when strong plants are nurtured in the optimal growing environment using the latest science available and are harvested under the watchful eye of the grower, the results are consistently beautiful crops.

Allen does see some growth opportunities ahead. In 2018, Main Street Produce started planting raspberries for one of its customers and that went so well that it has increased volume in 2019.

“That’s something we are doing exclusively for a chain store and that program is looking really good and we are really happy with the results in both the size and flavor of the raspberries,” Allen said.

He also shared that there’s an opportunity to market strawberries out of Mexico, as he’s been approached by some to pack the Main Street label.

The future, Allen said, is also in good hands, as some young talent has begun working at the company in recent years. He cites Jose Marcus in food safety; Ben Adam, projection coordinator; and Alex Oliveras, who just joined the company recently out of Cal Polly, as a trio who are already making a big difference.

“These are young, hardworking, motivated guys that are good for our future on the growing side,” he said. “And we have just as much talent, too many to mention, on the marketing side.”