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OPN Connect Newsletter 333 · August 17, 2023

Central West Produce Looks to Expand Acreage to Meet Organic Berry Demand


Initially a conventional vegetable marketing company started in the late ‘70s, Central West Produce (CWP) has transformed and expanded over the years to become a full-service grower/shipper of both conventional and organic strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

Bryan, Jack, and Danny Gresser

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Based in Santa Maria, California, Central West is a family operation founded in 1979 by Jack Gresser that is now owned and managed by his sons Bryan Gresser and Danny Gresser.

“CWP began selling strawberries for independent growers in the Oxnard and Santa Maria Valleys back in the 1980s,” says Central West’s Director of International Business Daniel Waters. “We then started our own farming entities and selling our own family-grown strawberries in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.”

Daniel Waters, Director of International Business, Central West Produce

Vitalis February 2024

In response to consumer demand, Waters says Central West Produce decided to plant a small amount of organic strawberry acreage in the late ‘90s in Santa Maria. Since then, the company has grown its organic strawberry program significantly and now offers the fruit year-round, farming its own acreage in California and Florida as well as working with partner growers in Central Mexico and Baja California.

“CWP began selling strawberries for independent growers in the Oxnard and Santa Maria Valleys back in the 1980s. We then started our own farming entities and selling our own family-grown strawberries in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.” - Daniel Waters

“Our core business has been strawberries, and we have seen our customers are now wanting the Central West brand all year round,” Waters says. “We support this program by supplying from six different growing regions to give continuity in supply.”

Fox Packaging January February 2024

Central West Produce organic strawberries

In 2014, CWP expanded into organic blueberries, later followed by conventional blueberries as well as both conventional and organic blackberries and raspberries.

“We decided to add other berry offerings to diversify our business and strengthen our relationships with our retail and plant nursery partners,” says Waters. “It was a natural progression given that we have a well-established and respected brand.”

“Our core business has been strawberries, and we have seen our customers are now wanting the Central West brand all year round. We support this program by supplying from six different growing regions to give continuity in supply.” - Daniel Waters

Hiwassee February 2024

The company’s own farming operation currently grows organic blueberries, organic blackberries, and organic raspberries in different districts throughout California. It also works with partner growers in Washington, Oregon, Peru, and Chile for its year-round organic blueberry program.

“Organic has grown significantly to now be over 10 percent of our production and a very important component to our overall offering,” says Waters. “We enjoy supporting the organic segment of our customer base by offering quality berries in a consistent brand.”

Central West Produce berry picking

Waters says Central West’s organic berries can be found in supermarkets and other retailers throughout the US and Canada. To satisfy consumer demand, the company offers multiple pack-size options: 1- and 2-pound for organic strawberries; 6-ounce, pint, and 18-ounce for organic blueberries; and 6-ounce for both organic raspberries and blackberries. All the company’s berries are packed under the Central West label.

“Organic has grown significantly to now be over 10 percent of our production and a very important component to our overall offering. We enjoy supporting the organic segment of our customer base by offering quality berries in a consistent brand.” - Daniel Waters

“We are currently harvesting our organic raspberries and blackberries, and after a slightly delayed start due to weather, the crop is progressing nicely,” says Waters. “We are already seeing good demand for these berries from our retail partners.”

“We are also now shipping our organic blueberries from Washington and will begin shipping from Peru later in August. And our organic California blueberries will start back up in early 2024. We see the opportunity and the demand to have our trusted Central West Organic brand on the shelves all year around.”

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Central West Produce berries

Waters says CWP’s organic strawberries out of California have been in steady supply this summer, noting that the new crop will be ready for harvest by mid-August.

Looking ahead, Central West sees “opportunity for significant growth in organics as consumers continue to enjoy organic fruit and the benefits that come from this for themselves and the environment,” says Waters. “We are working on developing more acres in Baja to add more organic volume year-round.”

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