Industry veterans Greg Holzman and Steve Akagaki sold Purity Organic/Pacific Organic Produce seven years ago and remained with the company until 2018. The two decided to team up again to form TerraFresh Organics. In partnership with the Harbinger Group, TerraFresh Organics will supply organic citrus, mangos, stone fruit and grapes under Misionero’s Earth Greens label.
“We’ve known Tom Minnich and Joe Merenda—the people behind the Harbinger Group, who are partners in Green Wave, Vertical Foods and Misionero— for years,” said Holzman, managing partner of the Mill Valley, CA-based TerraFresh Organics. “We felt we complemented those guys really well. We brought a strong organic fruit side, so it made a lot of sense to us.”
Greg Holzman, TerrFresh Organics
Holzman and Akagaki are no strangers to the organic industry. They invested in a conventional apple orchard back in 1985 and converted it into an organic farm two years later. It wasn’t long before Holzman caught the “bug,” and his love for the organic produce industry began.
“It makes you feel good; you’re helping to feed people and doing so in a great way,” he said. “In 1994, Pacific Organic Produce was formed and we launched our business in the Northwest with Washington apples, pears and cherries, and quickly moved into the California Central Valley and started selling stone fruit.”
The pair created the Purity Organic label in the early 2000s for produce and launched the Purity Organics Juice business in 2003, encouraging growers to bring the company their apples for juicing.
“When we decided to form TerraFresh Organics we looked around for the right partners—fresh produce partners and not just money partners—people who could help the growers we work for find more marketplaces,” Holzman said. “Our MO has always been, grow more organic and get the growers to get their kids to college, which means they have to be sustainable and profitable.”
The goal of TerraFresh Organics is to keep farmers growing more organic produce and help them become successful.
“We are importing organic fruit from Peru, Ecuador and Mexico, and our primary business is citrus and mangoes. We have a growing stone fruit program out of California with people we have been with for over 20 years,” Holzman said. “And we are creating a grape program in California, South America and Peru.”
One challenge in organics is connecting the old and new, those long-term distributors who are purely organic players that help access the small mom-and-pop markets and supermarkets, and those who are new to the industry.
“When we were young in this business, diversity was an essential part of the growing organic community,” Holzman said. “As the organic industry matured, it started to mirror the conventional industry, which is much more commodity specific.”
TerraFresh Organics offers high-quality organic growers from the U.S. and Latin America access to the marketplace, and that’s important in today’s organic market growth. Quality shippers are what it’s all about.
“I always envisioned what we had and what we have, as kind of a Christmas tree. If you’re coming from another country or coming from your farm, and you plug into our system, all the lights go on,” Holzman said. “We help organic growers with distributors and we help them with retailers at all levels. It’s for the grower that isn’t completely integrated, doesn’t have their own sales force, but has strong quality and an ability to pack and ship.”
The company continues to look for other products to work at and expects to expand offerings in the years ahead. Where it sees “windows” in the market, is where it plans expansion. Bringing Jason Laffer on as VP of sales represents just the first of upcoming additions to the team to support its projected growth.
Jason Laffer, TerraFresh Organics
“I definitely see us growing. We’re brand new out of the gate, and having a good start,” Holzman said. “We are building a great program here. We will have some blueberries from Peru and some off-season fruit, and we’re going to grow the domestic side of our business, too.”