OPN Connect Newsletter 311 · March 16, 2023

Viva Tierra Organic Focuses on Flavor

Since its beginnings in 1984, Viva Tierra Organic, has specialized in organics and nothing but organics. 

And while organic apples and pears have been and will remain the core of its business, the company is continually exploring and expanding into new product lines like organic citrus, stone fruit, berries, fresh ginger root, and tropicals like pitahaya (dragon fruit).

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Leonardo Lustig and Luis Acuña

This year, Viva Tierra is celebrating its 30th anniversary with Agro Roca in Argentina as the first organic orchard in South America and as the first company to import organic pears and apples into North America.

“I think the anniversary is significant for many reasons—being pioneers and that we are still working together, now with the second generation of young organic farmers, is pretty amazing,” said Chris Ford, business development and marketing manager for the Mount Vernon, WA-based company.

Vitalis June 2024

Chris Ford, Business Development and Marketing Manager, Viva Tierra

“We offer year-round consistent, high-quality supply in multiple categories, including apples, pears, and onions as well as great seasonal programs like kiwi from Italy and Greece, hard squash from Central America, and pitahaya from Ecuador and California,” said Ford. “We follow the seasons and focus on flavor.”

The company’s organic growers are strategically located across the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, giving Viva Tierra an unparalleled range of harvest dates to ensure that its fruit is in season, all season, every season.

“We follow the seasons and focus on flavor.” - Chris Ford

The term “Viva Tierra” is a Spanish phrase that literally translates to “living earth” but also carries an additional meaning, more akin to the exclamation, “Long live the Earth!”

This sentiment embodies the company’s enthusiastic commitment to sustainable, organic agriculture and fresh, wholesome produce.

Viva Tierra Abate Fetel pears in field bin

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Over the years, the company has built other long-lasting relationships with organic fruit producers in the Rio Negro Valley of Argentina, but the initial starting point was established thanks to the legacy of Agro Roca’s founders who are still around today—Leonardo Lustig and Enrique Scholz. The pair, along with their fellow partners, had the vision and determination to embark on a different journey when they decided to start transitioning conventional pear orchards to organic production in the early ’90s. 

Luis Acuña, Leonardo Lustig Jr. (aka Oso), Bettina Sholtz, and Chris Ford

Luis Acuña, President and CEO of Viva Tierra, was in his late 20s when he began working with the two agronomists alongside Roger Wechsler, back when he and Weschler were still a part of Cascadian Farm Fresh in Washington State’s Skagit Valley.

“It was a big jump for us,” Acuña recalled, being with a well-known, pioneering company like Cascadian Farm to be branching out on its own as small produce brokers and adventuring into importing organic fruit from the Southern Hemisphere. The year was 1993 when Viva Tierra Organic (then CF Fresh) began its journey with Agro Roca, shipping the first organic pears from Argentinean Patagonia to the Port of Philadelphia. 

Luis Acuña, President and CEO, Viva Tierra

“It was at this juncture that CF Fresh was established, and when the news broke about going into business on our own, Scholz and Lustig weren’t concerned about how they would get paid. They said, ‘We’ll ship them fruit; they will sell it; and that is how we will get paid’—as simple as that," Acuña said. "The rest is history, and we never looked back.”

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This year, Viva Tierra will also launch the first organic Fair Trade Certified fresh ginger in North America from Peru packed in ReadyCycle material, which encapsulates the company’s motto—“Organic to the Core.”