The Final 5

The Final 5


This year’s finalists for American Vegetable Grower’s (AVG) annual Grower Achievement Award are committed to excellence in everything they do. As you will read below, the five farms listed strive to do whatever it takes to reduce food safety risks, market their produce effectively, and be good stewards of the land — among other things.

The winner will be announced in the September issue. The award will be presented at the United Washington Public Policy Conference in October.
To determine the winner, a panel of judges was assembled to discuss the merits of each finalist. AVG received many nominations again this year with several outstanding candidates. What follows are highlights gleaned from the five finalists.

The Chef’s Garden
Location: Huron, OH
Owners: Bob Jones Sr. and sons Lee
and Bob Jr.
Vegetable Acres: 200-plus
Crops: Mixed vegetables including micro greens, micro herbs, heirloom vegetables, specialty lettuces, and edible flowers

The Chef’s Garden delivers sustainably grown specialty produce direct from the farm to restaurants around the world.

The farm uses advanced food safety programs that include routine testing and a bar-coding system that tracks a product from seed to shipping. As food safety is critical on the farm, Bob Jones Jr., a past president of the Ohio Produce Growers and Marketers Association, has been very involved in developing the Ohio Produce Marketing Agreement.

Focusing mainly on customer service, the operation likes to see the produce go from earth to table in less than 24 hours. Catering to the needs of chefs, the farm strives to develop products in new sizes, colors, textures, and flavors.

The Chef’s Garden also has a strong focus on promoting the health benefits of vegetables to children. Veggie U, a not for profit program founded by the farm, is designed to teach fourth graders about how vegetables are produced and the benefits of good nutrition.

 

 

Formisano Farms
Location: Buena, NJ
Owners: John Sr., Ralph, and John Jr. Formisano
Vegetable Acres: 350
Crops: Fennel, romaine, specialty greens and herbs, and potted perennials

Known for being a leader in new market development and specialty crop marketing, Formisano Farms sells its produce through wholesale channels, including shippers at the Vineland and Landisville Co-ops, as well as their own shipping company.

Named the Fennel King of South Jersey by New York Times food writer and cookbook author Craig Claiborne, their signature crop has been featured in numerous media outlets, promoting the variety and quality of produce grown in the greater Vineland area.

Owner, John Formisano Sr. has been an active leader in numerous farm groups and a promoter of the Vegetable Growers Association of New Jersey.

Ralph takes care of the daily sales, office records, and pesticide applications through Collingswood Community Farmers’ Market and direct business-to-business deliveries to florists throughout the greater Philadelphia region.

John Jr. is gradually taking over the reins of production from the greenhouse transplant and nursery production through field operations. The acres are double- and sometimes triple-cropped each season, producing fresh market greens and herbs from early April through November.

 

Pasquinelli Produce

Location: Yuma, AZ
Owner: Gary Pasquinelli
Vegetable Acres: 8,500
Crops: Watermelon, cauliflower, celery, broccoli, spinach, romaine, iceberg, red leaf, green leaf, and butter lettuce

Davie Brooks has been the grower at Pasquinelli Produce for more than 33 years and runs the day-to-day field operations. He is said to be one of the first growers to successfully implement a cauliflower trap crop system in the 1990s against sweetpotato whiteflies.

Brooks and assistant grower Calvin Morris also were involved with building a machine that could gently load watermelon off the left or right side, simplifying the harvesting process and cutting labor by about 35%. In addition, Brooks says thanks to the machine, the workers don’t walk on the vines.

Pasquinelli regularly uses drip irrigation for both melons and vegetable production and has adapted it to desert growing conditions. The operation also uses floating row covers for winter melon production for both earliness and aphid-virus control.

Pasquinelli has a strict crop rotational program aimed at sustaining soil health and weed management. The farm also employs two in-house entomologists.

 
TKM Bengard Farms, LLC
Location: Belle Glade, FL
Owners: TKM farms, Inc. and Bengard Harvesting
Vegetable Acres: 6,500-plus
Crops: Iceberg lettuce, romaine, green leaf, boston, endive, escarole, cabbage, parsley, cilantro, frisee, radicchio, sweet corn, cantaloupe, and honeydew melons

TKM Bengard Farms is a family operation that has grown lettuce for four generations. The Basore family first began growing lettuce on muck soil in Michigan as a rotational crop for onions. In 1969, they started growing lettuce in Belle Glade, FL. Eventually they became a major lettuce supplier for South Bay Growers. In 1996, the Basores first partnered with the Bengard family out of Salinas, CA.

The varieties of lettuce, as well as other crops grown on the farm, are diverse as the operation changes to meet the needs of the health-conscious consumer. They strive to ensure food quality and food safety by implementing the latest technology throughout their growing, harvesting, pre-cooling, and shipping operations.

TKM Bengard Farms is the largest lettuce grower east of the Mississippi river. Their success has been largely possible due to the growth of the bag salad industry and it has been sustained by the demand for regional wrap lettuce.

 

Trax Farms

Location: Finleyville, PA
Owners: Bob Trax Sr., John Trax, and Tim Trax
Vegetable Acres: 300
Crops: Strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, plus fruit crops

Trax Farms was established by Lewis Trax in 1865 and has been operated by the family for six generations with the seventh generation now working on the farm. President Bob Trax Sr., who received the Master Farmer Award in 1997, has been a member of the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association for more than 20 years. For more than 15 years, Trax also has been a member of the marketing research board in Pennsylvania.

One of the farm’s goals is to do whatever it can to retail all of its crops. The result is a farm market that is open year-round. An expansion in 2000 added 40,000 square feet of greenhouses to the operation.

Agritourism is another important aspect of the business. The farm offers U-pick strawberries and blueberries, and hosts numerous events.

Trax Farms also donates produce to local food banks and received an award from Meals on Wheels Asso-ciation of America.

 

Leave a Reply

One comment on “The Final 5

Featured Stories

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

Insect & Disease UpdateAdditional Aid Coming For Florida Citrus Growers Gouged…
September 17, 2014
Through USDA’s Tree Assistance Program, eligible growers can cash in on cost share for diseased tree removal and replanting. Read More
FruitsFlorida Fruit & Vegetable Association Seeks Fresh A…
September 17, 2014
New partnership bolsters Fresh From Florida program. Read More
CitrusFDA Announces Cooperative Agreement To Implement Nation…
September 17, 2014
Agreement will provide information to help plan and carry out the produce safety rule in partnership with state regulatory agencies. Read More
NutsAchieving A Super-Premium Walnut Crop
September 17, 2014
What are the best ways to get high quality walnuts that are light in color and fully developed? Read these 8 harvest best practices to find out. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Highly Dependent On Groundwater
September 17, 2014
Fully 87% of large growers use groundwater to irrigate their trees. Read More
NutsWarm Winter And Drought Casting Doubt On Pistachio Harv…
September 17, 2014
Though Rabobank report says that one billion pounds still attainable by 2019. Read More
Crop ProtectionBagrada Bug On The Move In California
September 16, 2014
Find out more on management tactics and what counties are impacted by this invasive pest. Read More
Cucurbits14 Stand-Out Melon Varieties [Slideshow]
September 15, 2014
Browse the slideshow below for information on these exceptional melon varieties from the nation’s leading seed breeders and distributors. Read More
Grower Achievement AwardView Highlights From The 2014 United Fresh Washington P…
September 15, 2014
Browse this slideshow to view photos from the 2014 United Fresh Washington Public Policy Conference, including pictures of this year’s Grower Read More
Apples & PearsCanneries Hope To Encourage Growers To Grow Pears For P…
September 15, 2014
Higher wholesale prices offered as means to boost canning pear acres. Read More
FruitsDeadline Nearing For Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistanc…
September 15, 2014
Fruit growers who suffered losses due to frost or freeze in 2012 could be eligible for assistance through USDA’S Farm Service Agency. Read More
BerriesBotrytis Gray Mold Pressure Increasing With Humid Weath…
September 15, 2014
Michigan State University researcher offers tips to reduce the spread of spores. Read More
Fruits5 Mistakes You May Be Making With Your Orchard’s …
September 15, 2014
These deadly sins may be hurting your customers’ experience — and costing you money. Read More
FruitsSuccess And The Not-Top-100 Grower [Opinion]
September 15, 2014
Innovation isn't only happening at the top. Some of the most interesting ideas in the fruit industry are being executed by small growers. Read More
Apples & PearsAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top Appl…
September 13, 2014
The nations’s largest growers reflect how technology, innovations, and promotion help make their businesses run more efficiently. Read More
NutsAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top Nut …
September 13, 2014
Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts grown in California make up the crops featured in this portion of the Top 100 Report. Read More
FruitsAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top 100 …
September 13, 2014
The nations’s largest growers reflect how technology, innovations, and promotion help make their businesses run more efficiently. Read More
Stone FruitAmerican and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top Ston…
September 13, 2014
This year’s Top 100 Report features the 25 largest stone fruit growers in the country. Read More