Eco Farms, a grower-packer-shipper of avocados, organic citrus, and organic dragon fruit, has recently expanded its operational capacity and continues to increase its market presence throughout the US and Canada.
“We have upgraded our packing line in our Temecula, CA headquarters to triple our efficiency to run more fruit and do so at a much quicker pace,” said Gahl Crane, Eco Farms’ sales director. “We have also doubled our bagging capacity to meet the growing demand for organic (and non-organic) avocados and organic citrus.”
Gahl Crane, Sales Director, Eco Farms
Additionally, Crane noted that Eco Farms has expanded its ripening facilities in Temecula and added new partners in the US and Canada to offer more regional ripening services. The company is currently ripening and distributing from six ripening centers, with plans to expand further in 2023.
“We have upgraded our packing line in our Temecula, CA headquarters to triple our efficiency to run more fruit and do so at a much quicker pace.” - Gahl Crane
“Ripening has become an essential part of an avocado marketer’s supply program,” Crane said. “We ripen throughout the US and Canada and continue to see the importance of having ripe fruit close to our retail and foodservice partners’ distribution centers. Expect some increased ripening capabilities from Eco Farms/Oppy in the coming years as avocado supply and consumption continues to grow.”
Crane noted that Eco Farms has also been increasing its retail penetration throughout North America.
“We continue to grow our market presence with retailers across the US and Canada with the Oppy organization,” Crane said, referring to Eco Farms’ partnership with Oppenheimer, which took a 65 percent stake in the company in 2020. “We have expanded Eco Farms avocados into many retail accounts in which Oppy is already selling non-avocado products (and had not previously sold avocados to).”
Founded in 1972, Eco Farms was the first company in the US to grow and market organic avocados, long before the organic industry was the established sector it is today. The company currently offers organic avocados (as well as conventional ones) from California, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru.
“We continue to grow our market presence with retailers across the US and Canada with the Oppy organization.” - Gahl Crane
“We continue to see strong demand for organic avocados, particularly in bags,” Crane shared. “We also see retailers promoting organic avocados at a very strong pace these last few months—and that is essential to both continue growing demand and to keep up with strong volumes from various countries of origin.”
In the first half of 2022, avocado prices soared, which Crane said was the result of a “lower-than-normal” Mexican crop. While the high prices were good for growers, he said they “were too high for the market and drove up prices to consumers to unsustainable levels. In Q3 and Q4 2022, and so far in 2023, we are seeing much more normal prices.”
Crane said that while labor, water, and transportation costs have all increased, Eco Farms has been able to mitigate any negative impact of these factors with its strong partnerships.
“We have incredible grower and retail partners and have worked around these external challenges to keep product moving and demand brisk,” he said. “Organics have seen continued good demand even through inflation—and 2022 did see an increase in total dollars on fresh organic avocados versus 2021.”
Crane also credits Eco Farms’ partnership with Oppy for the company’s continued success. “Oppy and Eco Farms have made a great team as we approach three years together,” he said. “Oppy has an incredible team, and the upper management and ownership have been super supportive of our initiatives to grow our avocado business.”
“Organics have seen continued good demand even through inflation—and 2022 did see an increase in total dollars on fresh organic avocados versus 2021.” - Gahl Crane
In addition to avocados, Eco Farms also offers citrus and dragon fruit programs, both of which are 100 percent organic. The company’s citrus is sourced from California and includes Navels, Valencias, Cara Caras, blood oranges, tangerines, Minneolas, Golden Nuggets, Satsumas, grapefruit, lemons, and Meyer lemons.
When asked why Eco Farms chooses to have a 100 percent organic citrus program, Crane said, “Organic has been a major part of our company’s growing and marketing operations since the 1970s. As pioneers in this industry, we hold organic farming and growing as very sacred and important work within the broader fresh produce industry. We remain committed to organics and will continue to grow in this space while also growing in the non-organic sector on avocados.”
Eco Farms is also dedicated to sustainability and has recently been making further strides in that area. “We have increased our focus on sustainability by working to grow and farm more efficiently, using more recyclable and compostable materials in packing and bagging, and modernizing our facility to be as efficient as possible,” Crane said. “This is just the beginning as we will continue to look for ways to become cleaner, leaner, and more sustainable as we grow our business.”
Crane said the recent heavy rainfall in California has been “incredibly beneficial to the trees and our farms,” though he noted it’s not a panacea. “What we need is regular, consistent rain all winter long to get out of the drought conditions,” he explained. “That said, we are in a much better position in February 2023 than we were in February 2022.”
Steve Taft, Co-Founder and President, Eco Farms
Having celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, Crane said Eco Farms is looking forward to continuing its “commitment to doing good as we start our next 50 years.” He noted that Steve Taft, Eco Farms’ co-founder and longstanding president, remains active in the day-to-day business. “Steve is incredibly proud of what he and his team have built and what the future holds for Eco Farms and Oppy in the organic avocado and citrus space,” Crane said.