Monday, July 26, 2010

Earl Basto, BFP's artist-in-residence

Posted by Darrell Thompson

Belize Fruit Packers has always been distinguished for its quality fruit and service, but how about the talent of it’s employees?

Earl Basto is an Assistant Supervisor to the Food Safety Department. He’s be known for his excellent interpersonal skill, leadership, but most of all for his creativity and talent. Earl boasts of his talent for tattooing, making piercing, but most of all wall painting and graffiti.

Earl was chosen to paint BFP’s logo inside the packinghouse and to the entrance of the facilities in a project to make the company more lucid and lively. Spray cans, paper, tape, and a picture of the logo was all that he used along with his talent. It took him half day to paint each logo, making it look realistic, but most of all gorgeous.

Earl has been constantly contacted by churches, schools, and other friends to do these types of paintings, giving a touch of colour and harmony to silent walls.

Tropical Storm Bonnie spares south Florida crops

Excerpts from a 7/23/2010 The Packer article by Doug Ohlemeier

Tropical Storm Bonnie has struck south Florida but in early reports, grower-shippers say the first tropical storm of the season hasn’t caused any major damage.

Mary Ostlund, director of marketing for Homestead-based Brooks Tropicals Inc., said the storm’s 40 mph winds weren’t damaging.“We did get a lot of rain but we haven’t seen a lot of damage,” she said July 23.

In mid- and late July, south Florida avocado grower-shippers are normally in the peak of their June-January production.Because of the severe cold that struck the growing region last winter, Ostlund said that peak has been delayed until mid-August.Though volume so far is normal, the deal is running about a month late, she said.

Pal Brooks shows a keen eye for consumer hits

Excerpts from a 7/23/2010 article in The Packer by Don Schrack

In the 1980s, Homestead, Fla.-based Brooks Tropicals Inc. supplied 25% of all mangoes sold in North America. Today, it sells none.There was a time in the not too distant past when 25% of the limes sold in North America came from Brooks Tropicals. Today, the figure is 1%.In 1990, Brooks Tropicals grew 12 commodities in its home county. Today, it grows two.

Then came Aug. 24, 1992.“Hurricane Andrew cost me 75% — or more — of my total lifetime net worth in one hour,” said Pal Brooks, owner of Brooks Tropicals Inc.That Brooks Tropicals survived the obstacles of the 1980s and 1990s — and continues to thrive — is testament to Pal Brooks and his ability to adapt to an ever-evolving market.

“Years ago, I described my experience in the agriculture business as learning to dance with change and enjoy it,” he said. “Change is always here.”Brooks may be the Arthur Murray of fresh produce. Those dancing skills, however, are wedded to an uncanny ability to target commodities that are about to become consumer favorites.

“Everything I’ve done in my life says I’m market oriented,” he said.Brooks’s marketing insight — through all of the company’s adjustments and changes — has focused on one key segment of the fresh produce industry.“If you solve the buyer’s problems, make his life easier, he will favor you with his business,” Brooks said. “It’s not the cheapest price, not always the best quality or on-time delivery. It’s the entire package.”

Any fantasies for Pal Brooks of a career away from fresh produce were stifled early. His father and company founder, J.R. Brooks, weaned him on agriculture. At age 11, Pal worked the fields. A year or so later, he was elevated to packinghouse duties.It was in 1961 that Brooks, having returned to south Florida with a college degree in his pocket, began to play a more significant role at Brooks Tropicals.

“At the time, my father owned 100 acres of groves, managed another 100 acres and worked with growers who farmed another 100 acres,” Brooks said.Six years later, Brooks purchased the company from his father, and growth skyrocketed.“I call it the heyday, the high times of subtropical agriculture in Florida,”

Brooks said.In his first year at the helm of Brooks Tropicals, the company sold $300,000 of fresh produce.“We can do that in one day now,” he said.The inventory pages of the heyday years look nothing like the list of commodities offered by Brooks Tropicals today.The new commodities are due to one constant: dancing to change. It was a skill the family learned before Pal Brooks was on the scene. As early Florida farmers, they started with grapefruit until the market plummeted, Brooks said. Then it was avocados followed by mangoes.It was Brooks who added limes and then tropical fruits.“Then I lost some of those commodities and added papayas,” he said. “It’s just constant change. You just have to accept it.

”Papayas are among the biggest of the changes at Brooks Tropicals. The company began sourcing papayas — grown on fewer than 30 acres — from Belize in 1993.Over several years, Brooks Tropicals doubled its papaya volume every 15 or 16 months, Brooks said. The Brooks Tropicals papaya farmland now stands at 1,600 acres.

Brooks — now in his early 60s — has no plans to retire, which is good news for those just entering the fresh produce industry.“Nothing stimulates me more than being around young people who say: ‘I want to learn what you know,’” Brooks said.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Florida avocados pack fewer calories than California cousins

Excerpts from an article written by Susan Salisbury in the 7/16/10 edition of the Palm Beach Post

With summer here, South Florida's tropical fruits such as mangoes and avocados - yes, it is a fruit - are in season.

The trademarked SlimCado, with 50 percent less fat and 33 percent fewer calories than the leading California avocado, is grown in Miami-Dade County and marketed across the United States and in Canada by Brooks Tropicals of Homestead.

The SlimCado season runs from June through January and might go as late as March this year, said Brooks' marketing director, Mary Ostlund. They're in stores now.

What did Brooks do to take the calories out of the avocado?
"We did nothing to these avocados to make them SlimCados," Ostlund said. "They are Florida avocados."

Florida-grown avocados are lighter-tasting and naturally contain less fat than the California-grown Hass variety because of our humid climate, Ostlund said. Brooks has grown them since 1928 and began selling the fruit under the SlimCado label in 1987.

Tables in Wonderland, update

Just some photos of the centerpieces and and the dining room. About 50 people came. Great dinner.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Letter of appreciation from the Government of Belize

July 12th, 2010

Ms. Mary Ostlund
Brooks Tropicals
Dear Ms. Ostlund,

On behalf of the Government of Belize, and the Planning Committee for the Prime Minister’s First Official Visit to Florida, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to you for your sponsorship and your active participation on the occasion of the Investment/Trade Show and Dinner Gala held on June 25th-26th, 2010.

The event was the first of its kind to bring together the public sector, the private sector, civil society and Belizeans living abroad, each representing key stakeholders in the development of Belize, in an effort to lay the building blocks for a strategic and mutually beneficial partnership.

Your foresight in seizing the opportunity to become a sponsor and investment/trade show exhibitor to showcase your company is congratulated and we hope it will translate into material business for you.

This is only the beginning. We intend to organize other meetings and events that will help to foster stronger links between the various sectors of our society inclusive of the Belizean Diaspora. We count on your support as we move forward with these initiatives.

Sincerely yours,
Janine Sylvestre-Vega
Honorary Consul General of Belize in Florida -Trade Envoy of Belize in Florida

Weather station

Some of you may have noticed an odd machine perched on the outside fence at the executive building's entrance. Raudel is testing a computerized weather station.

The solar powered weather station measures temperature, humidity, wind and rain. It send the information wirelessly to a console back in our offices.

For the curious, here's a photo of the entirely assembled unit and the console that receives and displays the information sent to it from the field device.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

SlimCados featured on 'And Now You Know'

'And Now You Know' a web publication for the produce industry is featuring our SlimCado avocados.

SlimCado - New Tropical Nutrition Corner

To usher in the new season, our Tropical Nutrition Corner is highlighting the SlimCado avocado.

Donna Shields, our tropical nutritionist, takes a fresh look at our special fruit. Her recipe suggestions are extraordinary, check them out.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ginger: cooking tip

Don't let the big hands (what pieces of ginger are called) of ginger overwhelm you. Fresh ginger is easy to use and can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Using ginger is easy. For every one part of dry ginger called for in a recipe, add 6 parts of fresh ginger.

Taking the dry skin off of ginger is easy; use a spoon and rub it off. Grate the moist beige insides for your recipe.

To store, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze up to 3 months. Don't worry about thawing for a recipe.