Friday, January 29, 2010

Heading up our papaya field operations, Henry Warrington

Henry comes to Brooks Tropicals with a background in large-scale farming in the citrus industry. Henry has managed farms in South Africa, Brazil, Mexico and California. Henry’s pragmatic approach to farming has brought more efficiency to our overall papaya program.

“Papayas are different than almost any other crop,” says Warrington. “You harvest all year round. There’s never a dull moment. As the saying goes, it keeps you on your toes with some papaya growers replacing the word ‘toes’ with ‘knees’.”

“This is the first time I have farmed in Belize. It’s a great country to do so with abundant natural resources: soil, water and climate. I consider it to have the best growing conditions for sub-tropical and tropical plants,” says Warrington.

“The people are top notch, working well as team, taking pride in their work, bringing a lot of talent to the fields. They’re dedicated to exporting quality to our customers.”

“Brooks controls all aspects of growing. You can’t say that very often. This is the best quality I’ve seen since I started over two years ago. I attribute a lot of this to the ongoing research being done to control crops and enhance the fruit quality. We think we’ve hit on the right combination of agricultural practices to address climate and other variables. We had a lot of rain in December, for example, but leveraging the research Brooks has done we’re packing beautiful fruit in February.”

Director of Papaya Sales

In the sales office, we have a new Caribbean Red Papaya Director of Sales, Richard Mancini who comes to us with a great deal of retail experience as District Sales Manager for a regional distributor.

“I’ve been reaching for Caribbean Red papayas at my grocery store for years, so it’s exciting to join the sales team that delivers this premier fruit,” says Mancini. “Their reputation for excellent customer service is industry-wide. I’m looking forward to expanding this papaya’s reach into the market."

"I've now been working with this team now for two weeks. It's a unique dynamic that I've never experienced in any other firm," says Mancini. "My plan is to enhance this team effort putting into use my abilities to build a strong rapport at the retail level."

"My sole objective will be to grow the market, bring in new customers, build the sustainability of large papayas for Brooks Tropicals," adds Mancini.

Richard just celebrated his two year wedding anniversary to Michelle. He and Michelle live in Coconut Grove.

Our R&D Manager for Fruta Bomba

Victor Salguero is our manager in our research and development efforts in Belize. His 12 person team and laboratory have been essential in developing more efficient agricultural practices for our papayas. Victor also works closely with Armando Monterroso who is the Director of R&D for Brooks Tropicals.

Victor is an Agronomist and an Entomologist with a bachelor’s degree from San Carlos, the national University of Guatemala, a master’s degree from New Mexico State University with a focus on plant protection and a PhD. from the University of Florida as an entomologist.

An entomologist is someone that deals with insects in general, but Victor finds that he must also deal with other pests because there is often no other person working with these other species: mites, snails, slugs, birds, mammals.

Insects - such as mealy bugs, aphids, mites – cause damage to the papayas. If we don’t control them, they will destroy the crops. The first line of defense is to apply biological controls such as predators and parasites.

Preventive measures are the best agricultural practices, like measures that deter insects from colonizing in the fields. Monitored periodically, if the insect’s presence is noted, Victor has many proactive measures to rid the field of the pest like introducing predators and parasites.

The Fruta Bomba lab is set-up to take in any abnormal plants or affected fruits found in the field. Every week there’s something new and Victor and his team identifies what it is and then make recommendations to the field on how it can be controlled. If a new disease is found, the spores are cultivated and grown in the laboratory to determine if it comes from a fungus, bacteria, virus or a physiological disorder. Then it is determined how best to fight it.

The lab does research on fertilizers, plant densities, irrigation, and other agricultural practices.

Recently they've been working with insect predators to control mealy bugs and mites. It’s not enough to know that the predators eat the insects; Victor wants to know how many of the insects they will eat. The more efficient the predator is, the more insects it eats. So the lab also grows insect pests, which seems counterintuitive but necessary, to feed the predators.

Many new agricultural practices are tested under laboratory control before testing in the field. The lab has one technician for computer analysis and another that supervises the ten R&D personnel who continue the lab’s work out in the field.

Victor was born in Guatemala. He is married with two adult children. His wife and children live in Guatemala.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Little freeze damage at Brooks Tropicals

Excerpt from an article Freeze Damage goes into South Florida in the Produce News by Christina DiMartino on 01/22/2010

Some fruit and vegetable producers in subtropical Florida, which extends from the northern edge of Lake Okeechobee south through the Florida Keys, took a hard hit to their crops from the freeze that lingered over the state during the first and second weeks of January. Others, however, were more fortunate.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals in Homestead, FL, said that the company is at the end of its "SlimCado" Florida avocado season. "The avocado crop did not suffer damage during the freeze," said Ms. Ostlund. "We have an entire process in place with irrigation and other capabilities that help protect the crops. Our starfruit crop also fared well. Unless it dips to the teens or lower, we aren't faced with the problems that we know other producers in the state are facing."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hy-Vee announces new foods in supermarket

Excerpts from an article by Beth Freehill in the 1/20/10 Clinton Herald (Iowa)

Hy-Vee is providing customers new foods that combine health and good taste. Fiber, protein, probiotics and omega-3 fats are the latest health trends that have influenced a number of the new products on the list this year.

The following list is the top new foods for 2010.

  1. Earth Grains Thin Buns or Arnold Select Sandwich Thins
  2. Chia seeds
  3. SlimCado Avocado: This avocado has up to half the fat and a third fewer calories than a regular avocado. Another difference is the skin remains green and does not turn black and yields to gentle pressure when ripe. Look for these avocadoes in the produce section.
  4. Kashi Heart to Heart Whole-Grain Crackers with Plant Sterols
  5. Flatout Flatbread & Artisan Fold It Flatbread
  6. Agave Nectar
  7. Dove Miniatures Ice Cream Bars
  8. Greek Yogurt
  9. Jif Omega-3 Peanut Butter
  10. Full Circle Organic Fruit Strips

For more information, contact me at Clinton’s Hy-Vee store. Beth Freehill* is a registered dietitian with Clinton’s Hy-Vee Store. For more information, call her at 243-6162. This information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

*I spoke with Beth before this article was published. She wasn't aware that SlimCados were out of season. We're going to talk again and do some kind of promotion in July.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Consumers’ careful spending limits demand

Excerpt from The Packer Central American/Caribbean special section published on 01/07/2010 by Abraham Mahshie

As the economy stabilizes, importers from Central America and the Caribbean are expecting steady sales of tropical fruit and vegetables while abnormal weather keeps volumes in check.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., whose main papaya production is in Belize, said hurricanes were not a major issue in the Yucatan peninsula. However, she said there was too much rain in the islands, causing a slow down of harvesting for coconuts and chayotes in the Dominican Republic.

Value, wider acceptance buoy tropical sales

Excerpts from an article in the Central American/Caribbean section in the Packer, published on 1/7/10

Marketing tropical fruits and vegetables in a down economy has posed challenges to suppliers from Central America and the Caribbean, but value and creativity have helped some suppliers maintain steady sales.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., said red-orange papayas can brighten the produce aisle.

“In the winter, tropical fruits from the Caribbean shine,” she said.

She said the company expects Caribbean red papayas to arrive in good quality and commercial volumes from Belize.

Brooks Tropicals also is importing a variety of fruit from Costa Rica including plantains, habaƱero peppers and pineapples. Honduras is their source for malanga, yams and plantains.

“We are finding that all of our produce for this winter looks like good crops, good harvests,” she said. “We expect plentiful supplies through the winter.”

Tropical fruit importers feel pressure to keep prices low

Excerpt from The Packer published on 01/07/2010

Suppliers of wintertime produce from Central America and the Caribbean are finding that in the economic downturn they have to lower prices in order to keep customers.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Brooks Tropicals, Homestead, Fla., argued that tropicals — whether vegetables or fruit — are already priced at good values for consumers.

“Luckily, I think that people realize that a lot of tropicals are bargains,” she said. “For example, with Caribbean Red papayas you get a lot of papaya for the buck, and Florida avocados are much larger and there is a lot of meat in those avocadoes. There’s a lot of bang for the buck.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fire Safety Training at Belize Fruit Packers

Reported by Darrell Thompson

On December 22, 2009 the Food Safety Department, headed by Alfonso Villamil and Darrell Thompson, along with the personnel and safety department, headed by Mariela Leal, conducted a Fire Safety Training in prevention of a possible calamity that may occur. This Fire Safety Training was done by Mr. Ronald Frazer, Senior Fire Safety Consultant and Retired Senior Fire Fighter. Representatives from each department attended this half-day workshop in which they learnt different types of methods of fire prevention, fire extinguishers and their use.The attendees learned the P.A.S.S. technique:

  • P-Pull the Pin
  • A-Aim at the base of the fire 6-8ft distance
  • S-Squeeze the leaver
  • S-Swift nozzle from side to side

Everybody got some practice in using this technique by extinguishing a fire deliberately made in oil drums. All questions and concerns were carefully answered by Mr. Frazer. Everyone felt that the training was a succcess. Congratulations to the new Fire Fighters of Belize Fruit Packers Ltd. Job well done.