Texas Produce Report: ‘Proximity Yields Freshness’

The Texas Department of Agriculture’s GO TEXAN program has been dedicated to showcasing products and businesses made in the Lone Star State. This initiative encourages consumers to look for the GO TEXAN mark when making buying decisions.

One of the US’s largest producers, Texas fills a crucial space in sourcing fresh fruits and vegetables.

Originally printed in the April 2024 issue of Produce Business.

The vast and varied geography of Texas gives rise to an abundance of fresh produce. According to the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas is one of the largest producers of fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S., growing more than 60 commercial fruit and vegetable crops and over 600 specialty crops.

The state is a crucial link in the produce supply chain. “Texas plays an integral part in U.S. produce production during the winter and spring months,” says Jeff Holton, sales manager at Val Verde Vegetable Co. in McAllen, TX. “It fills in gaps from the northern U.S. production areas. We have some outstanding growing operations all over the state that produce some of the country’s best produce.”

Texas is only one of four growing regions in the U.S. that can produce greens in the winter, explains Dante Galeazzi, president and chief executive of Texas International Produce Association (TIPA) in Mission, TX.

“When the rest of the country is freezing or looking at snow, we’re enjoying 70- to 80-degree days. That means if you want U.S.-grown during the winter months, Texas is going to stay relevant.”

Texas is a prominent source for Fresh Plus Grocery in Austin, TX, with four stores. “A lot of our overall produce is from Texas,” says Graham Black, produce manager. “And, the proximity of the growers is important. Not having to transport things very far means the quality doesn’t deteriorate in shipment. Proximity yields freshness.”


Though Texas has a few famous stars, such as the 1015 sweet onion, the state boasts a broad selection of items. Texas is known for its assortment of offerings in the winter, with commodities such as cabbage, baby dill, cilantro, leafy greens, broccoli and Napa, to name a few, says Holton. In spring, Texas starts with onions and a wide variety of melons and cucumbers.

Phoenicia Specialty Foods in Houston, TX, with two stores, receives Texas produce year-round. “Different products are available in different seasons,” says Moses Abayan, produce purchasing. “Some of our most common items are potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, onions, parsley, cilantro and tomatoes.”

According to TIPA, Texas produces watermelons from late April through October; grapefruit and oranges from Oct. 1 through May; cabbage from Nov. 1 through April; onions (including the Texas 1015 sweet onions) from mid-March through June; spinach, kale, mustards and herbs from Oct. 1 through April; and cantaloupes and honeydews from April through May.

Two of the major growing regions for fresh produce in Texas are the Rio Grande Valley (Deep South Texas, McAllen area) and the Wintergarden (Central South Texas, Uvalde area). According to TIPA, the Rio Grande Valley grows over 40 different items, from limes to methi leaf.

“The largest crops include grapefruit (20,000 acres), watermelons (10,000 acres), oranges (8,000 acres), onions (7,000 acres) and cabbage (4,000 acres),” says Galeazzi. “This zone produces nearly 70% of the state’s fruits and vegetables.”

Texas growers are also finding opportunities for storytelling and branding on bags and other packaging options.

The Wintergarden grows over 30 different items, with spinach, peppers, squash, cabbage and onions making up the bulk, adds Galeazzi.

“The Wintergarden enjoys a similar season to the Rio Grande Valley, beginning in September with peppers and running until June/July with onions and melons,” he says. “This zone produces roughly 15% of the state’s fruits and vegetables.”

Fresco Produce in McAllen, TX, handles oranges grown in Texas from October to January and sometimes into February. “Texas produce complements what we’re doing in other areas,” explains Mayra Romero, managing member. “The Texas season is practically the same as the Mexican season in oranges, but the Texas oranges are nicer than the Mexican oranges in appearance, and work well for both retail eating and juicing. We focus mostly on Valencia and Marrs varieties.”


Outside these more mainstream items, Texas growers push into new opportunities. “Texas farmers never stop experimenting or adding new things,” says Galeazzi. “We’re constantly seeing offerings expand. Recently, methi leaf has been a big hit in the Valley, alongside the expansion of Asian vegetables like daikon and Napa cabbage.”

Dill, kohlrabi, beets, methi leaf and daikon are just a few of the niche items Galeazzi has seen on price sheets from Texas farmers.

“The real beauty is that Texas can grow just about any vegetable,” he says. “The issue is the market and demand. While Texas can grow everything, sometimes there is enough competition out there that it just doesn’t make financial sense for the growers. It’s really about opportunities, and that’s what the Texas farmers are always thinking about — new and better opportunities.”

Texas is also finding new paths in organics. “Organic acreage is on the rise with more people looking for organic produce,” says Holton of Val Verde.

According to Texas A&M’s AgriLife Extension and Research, the acres of organic agricultural production in Texas grew 97% from 2014 to 2019.

“For fresh produce, Texas grows organic onions, grapefruit, watermelons, spinach, beets, broccoli and herbs,” Galeazzi says. “Every year, Texas organics continue to claim a bigger presence on store shelves.”

Texas growers are also finding opportunities for storytelling and branding on bags and other packaging options. “Through high-quality printing, graphics and labels, we support brands in their communications, where they can showcase their organic certifications and distinctive product attributes,” says Aaron Fox, vice president at Fox Packaging in McAllen, TX.

“Each packaging format becomes a tailored medium for showcasing the essence of Texan-grown produce, connecting with consumers on a visual and informational level.”

Fox Packaging recognizes the surging demand for flexible packaging in the fresh produce sector, particularly for Texan-grown products. “This spans both conventional and organic categories,” says Fox.

“The trend is driven by the advantages of flexible packaging, including shelf-life extension, waste reduction, heightened product visibility, and enhanced consumer convenience, and sustainable features.”

Among the distinctive Texan produce items benefiting from this trend are grapefruits, citrus, potatoes and onions, says Fox.


Texas produce finds its way around the country and into international markets. “Texas ships nationwide and to Canada,” says Holton. “Some exports of different commodities even make it to the Caribbean and Europe.”

Galeazzi explains almost all of Texas’ fruit and vegetable items are shipped throughout the U.S. and into Canada. “In certain seasons, we have seen Texas onions make their way down to Mexico,” he says. “And, very often we see Texas grapefruit going overseas to European and Asian markets. Those markets are big fans of the very sweet taste of the Texas grapefruit.”

Texas’ unique geography positions it as a perfect distribution hub. “With its location to the rest of the U.S., centered geographically, trucks loading from Texas can reach any point in the U.S. in five days and any location in Canada in six days,” says Galeazzi.“That’s a huge benefit when you’re talking to national buyers who don’t want complicated purchasing systems. Why not talk to one region that can supply your entire national chain?”

However, according to Galeazzi, Texas’ primary markets are the Midwest and East Coast. “As a result, the Texas industry rarely competes against California,” he says. “But we do compete often against Florida, especially when it comes to grapefruit.”

Another advantage of Texas’ location is its access to Mexico and thus the ability of its shippers and distributors to incorporate a wider selection and seasonality of product.

“Texas offers both Texas-grown and imported product supply,” says Romero of Fresco Produce. “Mexico is one of the largest suppliers, and the easiest way to get Mexico product into the U.S. is through McAllen, TX. Texas gives you the best of both: Texas-grown and Mexico-grown.”

Galeazzi explains how the combination of more than 200 different items coming from Mexico adds value and ease to buying from Texas shippers.

“By loading in Texas, national buyers have access to the more than 200,000 truckloads of Mexican-grown fresh produce crossing into Texas every single year,” he says. “Adding those items to the list of Texas-grown means buyers can fill their own shopping lists more easily, and for longer periods of the year, without needing complicated procurement plans.”


Promoting the source as Texas-grown is a boon to retail stores. “We label all our Texas produce,” says Abayan of Phoenicia Specialty Foods. “It’s a real value to shoppers to have local, Texas produce. It’s closer to home, meaning less miles. Our business is specialty, high quality products, so whenever we can get local Texas produce, we do.”

Galeazzi believes the biggest opportunity Texas has at retail or restaurant is the recognition of the state.

“Pretty much anywhere in the U.S., the everyday shopper can identify the Texas flag,” he says. “Texas is an icon, and sellers should lean into that. We have shippers who design their boxes to look like the Texas flag. We have watermelon shippers with PLU stickers shaped like the state. Especially for those who don’t live in Texas, promoting Texas-grown is, and should always be, an easy opportunity for marketing.”

The Texas Department of Agriculture’s GO TEXAN program is dedicated to showcasing products and businesses made in the Lone Star State. This initiative is dedicated to developing new sales and business opportunities for GO TEXAN partners, or encouraging consumers to look for the iconic GO TEXAN mark when making buying decisions.

Though the GO TEXAN program already resonates with consumers, Galeazzi points out the bigger opportunity of Texas growing by 850 new people per day.

“In the Dallas metroplex alone, the growth is 400 people per day,” he says. “That means we have to constantly be carrying the message about Texas and all the great flavors our state can provide to all these new Texans, every single day.”