March 2023 Produce Watch


Wyard Stomp


Driscoll’s, Watsonville, CA, has announced that Wyard Stomp has been promoted to managing director, Driscoll’s of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). The role reports to Driscoll’s chairman and CEO, J. Miles Reiter. Stomp, a native of the Netherlands, joined Driscoll’s in 2012 as part of the company’s European unit, after having worked for a dairy cooperative in Europe. In 2017, he relocated his family to California, where he held the role of chief commercial officer for Driscoll’s largest business unit.

Family Tree Farms

Family Tree Farms, Reedley, CA, has named Ryan Howard as its new sales manager. In his new role, Howard will oversee the Family Tree Farms sales and support team and continue to build key relationships with retailers. He has played an integral role in the sales department over the last 11 years and will provide leadership and strategic vision in sales planning as the company continues to grow.

Ryan Howard
Nelia Alamo

Markon Cooperative

Markon Cooperative, Salinas, CA, announced Nelia Alamo has joined the team as vice president of marketing. Alamo comes with over 25 years of experience in the produce industry, with a strong background in marketing and communications. Most recently, Alamo was vice president of communications at Calavo. Prior to Calavo, Alamo worked as vice president of sales and marketing with Gills Onions. Also, an active industry volunteer, she has held multiple roles on various committees and boards throughout her career.

In this newly-created position, Alamo will lead the marketing team to support the member distributors in developing and deploying a cohesive customer experience and engagement strategy. Alamo will report to Markon CEO, Andy Hamilton.

G&R Farms

G&R Farms, Glenville, GA, has promoted two senior team members, Steven Shuman and Cliff Riner, to executive level management. Shuman joined G&R Farms in 2016 and has been instrumental in the business development and customer service of G&R’s sweet onion programs. He began with the company as sales manager and later director of sales. With his latest promotion, Shuman will be serving as the general manager and vice president of sales. Newly-promoted vice president of ag production and grower relations, Riner joined G&R Farms in 2018 as the research and development manager, eventually moving up to director of production.

Steven Shuman / Cliff Riner
Kevin Benson / James McKinnis

Pete Pappas & Sons

Pete Pappas & Sons, Jessup, MD, has hired two industry veterans, Kevin Benson and James McKinnis for its rapidly growing organic sales division, Pete’s Garden Organics. Benson, organic commodity manager, has three decades in fresh produce. He specializes in organics and citrus sales and purchasing and brings knowledge from his positions through the years spanning multiple departments, culminating in director of purchasing. McKinnis joins the team as a sales executive with more than 20 years of industry experience in both southern and northeastern markets, specializing in organic fresh produce sales.

U.S. Apple Association

The U.S. Apple Association has promoted Mitchell Liwanag to manager of environmental affairs. In his new role, Liwanag will represent USApple in matters concerning the environment, including pesticides, water, energy, climate and stewardship as well as identify new areas for the organization to engage and participate in the areas of sustainability and the climate.
Liwanag joined USApple in January 2022 as manager of association management. He previously worked at the National Communication Association and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture. He holds a master’s degree in public policy, with a concentration in environmental policy, from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and a bachelor’s in agricultural communication from the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.

Mitchell Liwanag


Jac. Vandenberg wins Global Packaging Competition

Jac. Vandenberg, Tarrytown, NY, has announced its SUNRAYS brand was celebrated for excellence in package innovation and sustainable design at the PAC Global Awards. The company’s branding and marketing team took home the Award of Distinction for its SUNRAYS home compostable grape bags in what marked a record-breaking year of submissions to the competition. This was the first entry Jac. Vandenberg has made to the PAC Global Awards.

SUNRAYS home compostable grape bags, introduced to retail in 2022, are made from 20% bio-based polymers, derived from cornstarch and sugar cane and 80% compostable polymers, allowing the bag to fully disintegrate in three to six months under appropriate home composting conditions.

A.V. Thomas Produce Enters Merger Agreement with Yagi Brothers Produce

A.V. Thomas Produce Inc., Atwater, CA, has entered into a definitive merger agreement with Livingston, CA-based Yagi Brothers Produce Inc.

A.V. Thomas Produce, Inc. is a leading supplier of fresh conventional and certified organic sweet potatoes in North and Central America. Yagi Brothers Produce grows, packs and ships fresh organic and conventional sweet potatoes from Livingston, CA. The addition of Yagi Brothers Produce’s experienced staff, acreage and proprietary varieties, along with existing production and operations capabilities, farming acreage and storage capacity, will provide new and existing clients with greater product availability throughout the year. This partnership is also expected to result in greater efficiencies and significantly increase A.V. Thomas Produce’s market share throughout North America.

Brighter Bites Launches 10th Location

Brighter Bites, San Antonio, TX, launched its 10th location in San Antonio. This semester, Brighter Bites will serve six schools within Harlandale ISD, which will directly impact around 720 families and provide 115,200 pounds of fresh produce to its participants. Brighter Bites plans to further expand its reach into more schools within the Harlandale school district for the fall semester.

ProducePay Launches Storefronts on Marketplace

ProducePay, Los Angeles, has launched its virtual Storefront—a new feature offering growers a personalized platform to market its brand, available commodities and initiate transactions with trusted and verified buyers in one place.

ProducePay’s Storefront is an exclusive online destination for growers to attract new trading partners and interact with potential buyers in real-time.

While ProducePay’s marketplace concierge service helps sellers develop custom Storefront sites, growers who become Verified Members will unlock additional Storefront benefits. ProducePay growers become Verified Members by undergoing an extensive vetting and verification process that includes site visits to corroborate production history, certifications, ESG practices and the quality of its produce.

The convenience of ProducePay’s Storefront will enhance the online trading experience for produce buyers globally. Through this new feature, buyers have the ability to easily browse a grower’s specs for designated commodities, acceptance rate of deliveries, punctuality of shipments and the number of successful shipments the grower has made. Buyers will also have the ability to message, send questions or submit trade offers directly to a grower from the Storefront page.

Pure Flavor Acquires Cervini Farms C5

Pure Flavor, Leamington, Ontario, Canada, announces the acquisition of Cervini Farms C5 in Leamington, to expand its portfolio of greenhouses and distribution centers. The location of the Cervini Farms C5 facility is adjacent to Pure Flavor’s home farm in Leamington, which now creates a 350-acre, state-of-the-art, flagship Pure Flavor Campus.

Pure Flavor also completed the construction of the company’s new Phase IV, 40-acre organic greenhouse and 210,000 square foot centralized packhouse and distribution center in Leamington. The addition of 115 acres of greenhouse production this year will ensure a greater supply of products year-round for Pure Flavor’s retail and foodservice customers throughout North America.

IFG Celebrates 20 Years of Cotton Candy Grapes

International Fruit Genetics LLC (IFG), Bakersfield, CA, is commemorating the 20th anniversary of the breeding of the Cotton Candy grape. To date, the Cotton Candy table grape has become a worldwide symbol of fruit innovation. It was the first table grape variety in the highly flavored novelty category to hit the market.

The Cotton Candy grape was naturally bred in 2003 by geneticist, horticulturalist and IFG co-founder Dr. David Cain, but it took 10 more years before the Cotton Candy grape started to appear in retail stores. Since then, Cotton Candy grape sales have flourished, and Cotton Candy table grapes are grown in 13 countries with more than 34,000 U.S. tons produced and sold in main market destinations.

IFG Announces New Trademark Names for Low-Chill Cheery Cherry Line

International Fruit Genetics LLC (IFG), Bakersfield, CA, has announced three new trademark names for its growing Cheery Cherry line, which currently includes the Cheery Moon and Cheery Glow cherries. IFG has introduced Cheery Cupid, patented as IFG Cher-ten. This is a heart-shaped fruit with a sweet-tart taste. Fruit from commercial orchards will begin to ship in 2023 from Spain and Chile, with cherries from California available in 2024.

There are two other newly-trademarked named cherries, including Cheery Nebula, (patented as IFG Cher-eight), a big round cherry with a long green stem and intense taste with an early harvest window and a low chill requirement of <300 chill hours; and Cheery Chap (patented as IFG Cher-nine), another early season cherry with intense color and taste and a chill requirement of <300 chill hours.

Realty Income and Plenty Announce Strategic Alliance for Vertical Farm Development

Realty Income Corp. and Plenty Unlimited Inc. have entered into a strategic real estate alliance to support the development of Plenty’s indoor vertical farms. Under the terms of the agreement, Realty Income will acquire and provide development funding for properties that will house Plenty’s indoor farms. These properties will be leased to Plenty under long-term net leases. The agreement provides for up to $1 billion of development opportunities.

As the initial transaction, Realty Income has agreed to acquire the land and provide development funding for the first farm of Plenty’s indoor vertical farm campus near Richmond, VA, which was announced last year. Plenty expects the future multi-farm campus to deliver more than 20 million pounds of produce across multiple crops annually. The first farm to be developed on the campus will grow strawberries with Plenty partner Driscoll’s and initially serve the Northeast. Plenty already supplies grocers on the West Coast and will further expand its California footprint to include Walmart, which is also an equity investor in the company, when it launches its Compton farm in Los Angeles County.

“Scale is a critical component of advancing indoor farming’s role as a core contributor to our global food supply. Teaming up with Realty Income is a significant step forward in accelerating the deployment of our farms with vertical farm facilities that are purpose-built to support Plenty’s proprietary growing technology,” said Arama Kukutai, Plenty’s CEO.


Oppy Adds Spanish Garlic

Oppy, Vancouver, British Columbia, has added garlic from Spain to its product mix amid organic ginger success. Arriving on both the East and West coasts, Oppy’s conventional Spanish garlic is available year-round in bulk and three-pack mesh bags. Varieties include pure white, spring white, spring violet and morado in a range of sizes. Oppy is exploring further options, including black garlic.

Bowery Partners with Kayco to Distribute Kosher Greens

Bowery, New York, has announced the launch of a partnership with Bayonne, NJ-based Kayco. Five varieties of greens will now be available at hundreds of kosher supermarkets within a 200-mile radius of Bayonne. Baby Butter, Romaine, Crispy Leaf, Mixed Greens and Spring Mix are available under the Bowery Mehadrin brand. The greens are Orthodox Union (OU) Kosher certified and carry an additional rabbinical certification: Tartikov. Grown indoors, Bowery’s Protected Produce stays fresher longer, going from harvest to shelf in just a few days. By growing closer to communities, it travels fewer food miles from harvest to store.

Produce & Floral Watch are regular features of Produce Business. Please send information on new products, personnel changes, industry, corporate and personal milestones and available literature, along with a high resolution image to: Managing Editor, Produce Business, P.O. Box 810425, Boca Raton, FL 33481-0425 or email us at