Author Archives: Veritable Vegetable

Accounts Payable

Accounts Payable is responsible for the effective processing and managing of accounts payable transactions enabling Veritable Vegetable to meet financial obligations and maintain strong relationships with vendors.  This position reports to Finance Manager; coordinates closely with CFO, Director of Purchasing, Purchasing Manager, Purchasers and Accounting Clerk.

Responsibilities:

  • Process produce invoices, matching to purchase orders, processing adjustment invoices as approved.
  • Process payments daily, matching approved invoices and filing.
  • Coordinate with essential personnel to resolving outstanding issues and payment schedule.
  • Communicate with vendors and follow up on inquiries regarding payments, discrepancies and missing and revised invoices.
  • Process non-produce payables and payments, analyzing expenses for proper account coding, verifying appropriate requests, approvals and supporting documentation.
  • Prepare weekly payment budgeting reports.
  • Maintain accurately filed purchase orders, vendor invoices, payment stubs and other documents.
  • Prepare and file accurate and timely 1099s.
  • Recommend process improvements and keep training guides up to date.
  • Participate as a member of the finance department in month end close, assisting in inventory verification count, preparing journal entries and reconciling account balances.
  • Various other projects and tasks as assigned.

Essential Requirements:

  • Strong service orientation; with good negotiation skills.
  • Strong administrative and clerical organization; managing records and files.
  • Impeccable attention to detail and highly organized.
  • Think strategically and systemically.
  • Solve problems and think creatively.
  • Determine tasks, priorities, and goals; meet deadlines.
  • Expertise in Vixen, Accounts Payable and Purchase Order modules.
  • Work well collaboratively and independently.
  • Understand and act in accordance with Veritable Vegetable’s mission statement and values in the workplace.

Abilities and Skills:

  • Deal tactfully, patiently and assertively with vendors.
  • Communicate effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Self-motivated with good time management skills.
  • Work collaboratively internally and externally.
  • Maintain professionalism in all interactions.
  • Build strong relationships with a high degree of responsiveness and integrity.
  • Strong mathematical aptitude.

Qualifications:

  • 3+ years of experience in Accounts Payable
  • Solid understanding of general accounting practices.
  • Skilled in Excel and other Microsoft Office applications.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Accounting or Business Administration preferred.
  • Knowledge of Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) regulations and preservation of trust rights a plus.

Physical Requirements:

  • Ability to lift full file boxes.
  • Job tasks are performed in close physical proximity to other people.
  • Ability to filter out extraneous noise while on the phone.
  • Job requires constant computer work.
  • Must be able to sit or stand for extended periods of time.
  • Occasional inventory observation count in temperature controlled coolers.

Too Hot To Handle

Summer may be winding down but the chili pepper market is just heating up. Chili pepper is the fruit of the plants from the genus Capsicum, members of the nightshade family. Chile peppers originated in Mexico and can be traced back to the human diet in the Americas as early as 7500 BCE.

Chili peppers get their pungency from capsaicin and several related chemicals. The quantity of capsaicin varies by variety and on growing conditions. The intensity of the “heat” of chili pepper is reported in Scoville heat units (SHU). A bell pepper has 0 SHU while mild Hatch chilies have 1,000-1,500 SHU. On the other end of the spectrum, a very hot chili like Habanero has 100,000 – 350,000 SHU.

Chilies are used in many cuisines across many cultures. In 2014, 33.2 million tons of fresh green chilies was produced worldwide. Although chilies can add heat to dishes, they also add endless flavor and dimension. The chili pepper market is ripe with chilies of every variety, flavor and heat level. Don’t be afraid to try a new variety, talk to Account Manager about your pepper needs today!

*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

The apple market is picking up with lots of varieties coming on for the season. We love Pink Pearl, an heirloom variety that offers a colorful surprise inside with its rosy pink flesh and sweet-tart taste. Gravenstein is another beloved heirloom variety grown in California’s Sonoma County. This apple has yellow-green skin with splashes of beautiful red coloring. It eats well with crisp and juicy texture and sweet flavor. Sweetie, aptly named, are sweet and mild with spice-like notes. This variety is perfect for apple-lovers who prefer sweeter rather than tart fruit.  It is a cross between Braeburn and Royal Gala. Supply is limited. Zestar are very limited but very delicious! This early season variety has crispy, juicy texture with zesty sweet-tart flavor that will have you singing its praises with just one bite. Fuji is limited and may see small gaps in supply until Washington fruit comes on in mid-September. Lots of classic varieties on hand including Gala, Granny Smith, Macintosh, Honeycrisp and Red Delicious. This season, we are your premiere apple resource. Check back often for new varieties!

Seckel pears have arrived! This adorable variety is one of the smallest of all commercially grown pears, but packs an enormous flavor profile. Seckels are chubby and round with exceptionally sweet flavor. Their petite size makes them perfect for little hands as snacks or added to lunch boxes. Bartlett and Bosc are steady in supply. Starkrimson have come on with good supply. Asian pears are plentiful with Hosui, Shin-Li and Shinko all on hand. Crisp and refreshing, Asian pears are perfect hand fruit or added to salads or slaws.

Banana

Happy GROW Month! We are proud to partner with San-Diego based organic banana grower and importer Organics Unlimited to bring awareness to the GROW (Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers) banana program. The GROW program benefits underserved communities in banana growing regions of Mexico and Ecuador through the sale of organic bananas. Since 2005, GROW banana purchases have provided over $2 million in aid. A percentage derived from the purchase of each box of GROW organic bananas is earmarked for the GROW fund. These funds are used for youth educational programs, health clinics and dental and vision care in Mexico, clean water and early childhood educational programs in Ecuador; and environmental initiatives in the San Diego-Tijuana border region. Let your Account Manager know if you would like to join the GROW banana social justice program.

Berry

The record breaking heat wave that hit California has impacted strawberry production. Prices are on the rise as supply is in flux. Blueberry production from the North West is winding down. Blackberry supply is steady. Raspberry supply is limited until Mexican production picks up in November.

Citrus

California’s heat wave will likely impact the citrus market in the near term. Fingerlimes are in good supply. This unique microcitrus gets its name from the fact that it is about the size and shape of a finger (approximately 3 inches). The pulp is shaped like tiny balls rather than elongated teardrops common to most other citrus fruit. To enjoy, cut the limes in half and squeeze up from the bottom to release the flavorful pulp. California limes are in good supply. New crop lemons have started at great promotable price. Meyer lemons are plentiful. Prices remain high on Valencia oranges. Grapefruit supply is limited and moving quickly. Mammoth size Minneolas have arrived from Peru at sharp pricing.

Fig

Black Mission and Brown Turkey figs supply is tightening and prices are expected to increase. Adriatic figs are very limited.

Kiwi

New Zealand imported green kiwi is done for the season. There will be a gap in supply until California grown fruit comes on in October. Here’s your chance to try gold kiwi, which is steady in supply. Gold kiwi has bronzed, smooth and hairless skin with beautiful golden flesh. Its sweet flavor has notes of pineapple and mango.

Grape

Grape fans rejoice—there are many delicious varieties on the market. Thomcords are a hybrid variety that combines the popular Thompson seedless grape and Concord grape for an aromatic “labrusca” flavor mellowed by the Thompson’s mild sweet taste. Stella Bella, which means “beautiful star” is a staff favorite. This green seedless variety has large berry size, crisp texture, creamy color and clean flavor. Check out Biodynamic Thompson seedless grapes from Marian Farms based in Fresno, California. Marian Farms grows grapes using Biodynamic agricultural practices and hand picks the grapes at peak ripeness. The grapes are harvested when they are at their sweetest which ensures ripe, full, and attractive fruit. Look for Concord grapes from Heinke Family Farms coming on soon!

Mango

Have you tried non-treated Kent mango from Del Cabo? These mangoes are grown exclusively in the Los Cabos region of the Baja peninsula, which has uniquely been designated a pest-free area. Unlike most other imported mangoes, Del Cabo’s do not require chemical or hot water treatment—a requirement that disrupts the ripening and compromises the integrity of the fruit. The fruit is creamy in texture and offers a rich fragrance.  These mangoes are also Fair Trade certified which means a premium from each sale goes back to programs to support the workers.

Melon

Watermelon bins are limited and seeded watermelons are very tight. Honeydew from Rundle Family Farms is done for the season. Other growers are starting to wind down but supply should be steady for a little while longer. Piel de Sapo is gapping in supply but plenty of specialty melons for your melon needs. Anana melons have arrived. Similar to a Sharlyn melon, this variety has yellow netted skin and creamy white flesh that is sweet with hints of pineapple flavor.

Specialty Fruit

Jujubes, also known as red dates or Chinese dates, have arrived. Jujubes are small and similar in size to a grape or strawberry. They contain a single large seed inside and are red inside and out. The skin is edible and offers a crispy texture to compliment the sweet-tart apple like flavor of the fruit. Jujubes can be eaten fresh and are often dried. Dragon fruit supply is picking up on the pink flesh variety and should remain steady. White dragon fruit has started; volume is strong with sharp pricing to match. This beautiful and unique looking fruit has sweet kiwi-like flesh inside that varies from white to pink to red. We even have mixed colors in a ‘Rainbow’ pack! The fruit’s outer skin is cactus like (but no spines), resembling that of the scales of a mythical dragon. Passion fruit supply is still going strong with sharp pricing. The purple variety is the variety we commonly carry, which has purple skin and yellow pulp and black seeds inside. However, yellow passionfruit, a very rare variety with yellow skin has arrived in limited quantities. Its flavor is sweet, acidic and more tropical than its purple counterpart. Keep an eye out for quince and prickly pear coming on soon!

Stone Fruit

White and yellow nectarines have been steady from the Northwest. The fruit has been tasty and juicy with sharp pricing. Peaches have been in good supply, also from the Northwest. Prices are dropping fast. We’re winding down on red and black plums from California growers. Supply is dwindling but should hold for a couple more weeks. Pluots are in decent supply with the last of the California grown fruit. Pluots from the Northwest should be coming on soon.

 

Vegetables

Broccoli/Cauliflower

As we head into September, broccoli supply should increase and prices should trend down. Many growers are reporting improving production numbers. Volume is expected to improve by mid-September. ‘Purpling’ is a common occurrence on broccoli at this point in the season. This signifies the broccoli is at its peak and does not affect flavor or quality. Cauliflower supply has also improved and prices have dropped. Graffiti cauliflower is gapping in supply. While both broccoli and cauliflower are in better supply than previous weeks, recent extreme hot temperatures will likely impact quality.

Brussel Sprout

Brussel sprouts supply is very tight. Our main grower has labor shortages which has caused harvesting and production delays. There may be small gaps in supply.

Cabbage

Green cabbage is in good supply and prices are expected to remain low. Red cabbage prices may drop slightly.

Corn

The corn market is tightening up. Bi-color corn is gapping in supply. White corn is in better supply.

Cucumber

The cucumber market is tight and prices are on the high side. Slicer cucumbers are limited. English Hothouse are steady but prices are high. Specialty cucumbers are still available including lemon, Armenian and Painted Serpent.  Grab these tasty varieties before they’re gone!

Greens, Lettuce & Herbs

Bunched greens supply has improved as more growers have come on. Collards, chards and kale supply should continue to improve through September. Romaine supply remains steady and relatively unaffected after California’s recent heat wave. Green and red leaf lettuce are in good supply. Green butter is steady but tight. Red butter has good volume. Iceberg supply is tight; we’re bringing in everything we can. Cilantro prices have increased as a result of the heat wave but supply is steady. Oregano is gapping in supply due to quality issues.

Pepper

Green, orange, red and yellow bell peppers are in good supply. The chili pepper market is hot hot hot! Hatch chilies are in season and in-house. This popular chili is named after the original growing region in Hatch, New Mexico. Hatch chilies grow in the Hatch Valley where intense sunlight and cool nights give these chilies their unique flavor. Hatch chilies range from mild-medium heat to hot. Cyklon peppers hail from Poland and have excellent flavor without too much heat. Use them for salsa, adding crunch to salads or drying to make Polish paprika! Hot wax peppers are similar in appearance to sweet banana peppers but have much more heat (hotter than jalapenos!) Don’t miss out on Sweet Jimmy Nardello peppers. This long, thin-skinned frying pepper dries easily and has great sweet flavor with no bitterness.

Roots

Purple top turnips supply is still limited. Hakurei white turnips are in better supply. This variety is mild and sweet even when raw. Watermelon daikon is steady but limited. Bunched breakfast radish and, red radish and Easter egg radish are gapping in supply due to the hot temperatures at the end of August. Gold bunched beets are limited as many growers are between plantings. Red and Chioggia beets are steady.

Tomato

Early Girl or Saladette are in good supply as the season is in full swing and plenty of fruit is on the market. Most of the fruit available is “dry farmed” which means the plant is not irrigated after an initial watering to concentrate the flavor. Heirlooms supply is strong with straight packs of popular varieties as well as mixed packs. Roma supply is tightening up and may become limited. One and two-layer slicer tomatoes are expected to be steady but may experience some supply interruptions from the recent heat wave. Mixed medley cherry tomato is steady with promotable volume and pricing.

 

Grocery and Dairy

Did you know we sell maple products? We are currently offering a full line of delicious maple products including maple syrup in various size packs, maple sugar candy, and even whipped maple cream (great on toast, pancakes, yogurt and more!) All products are certified organic and great to have as we head into fall. The products are sourced from Maple Valley Co-op, a producer co-op modeled after famed Organic Valley.  For the month of September, all maple grocery products are 15% off, bulk items are 10% and maple candy and maple cream are 5% off. Talk to your Account Manager for details.

We also offer Stueve Farm organic and biodynamic certified eggs, a variety cheeses from Sierra Nevada Cheese Company, organic milk and yogurts from Straus Family Creamery, tortillas from Mi Rancho, Hodo Soy tofu, Wild Rose Farms quinoa, Masa Farms brown rice, and Marian Farms raisins and almonds. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our certified organic grocery program.

 

Floral

We may be nearing the end of summer but there is no shortage of beautiful flower options from Full Belly Farm and Thomas Farm. Check with your Account Manager to subscribe to our weekly floral availability list for the most up to date details. Mixed bouquets from both growers are also available in various sizes as well as a rotating list of seasonal straight packs. Thomas Farm is offering Dahlia and Sunflower straight packs. Full Belly has added many new flowers to their offering including Cosmos, Broom Corn, Milo, Strawflowers, Cockscomb, Red ‘Hopi Dye’ Amaranth, Sunflowers and more! We love the unique Cockscomb which are named after the red variety which resembles the cocks comb on a rooster’s head. Cockscomb also come in orange, white, yellow and pink.

 

Merchandising Corner

10 Steps for Prepped Produce

Always handle produce with care as rough handling can damage product, decreasing product life and adding unnecessary product loss/shrink. Only prep the amount of produce needed to merchandise for one to two days. Prepping more product than needed contributes to more product loss because product may need to be re-prepped if not sold quickly.

  1. Gather necessary tools:
    • Trimming knife
    • Baskets or trays for draining items
    • Twist ties and bands
  1. Clean and rinse the sink.
  2. Fill the sink with water just slightly warmer than room temperature
    • Too hot cooks the product and too cold prevents water absorption.
  3. Gently remove bands (if applicable), damaged or wilted leaves and stalks. Trim problem areas.
  4. For items requiring hydration, trim very slim slice off the butt of the product.
  5. Place trimmed produce in sink and swish in water to wash.
    • Carefully place lettuce, spinach and greens in the sink stems down.
    • Submerge item in water; soak for 3-5 minutes.
    • Avoid tossing or piling produce. Hardy produce such as broccoli, carrots, beets and turnips can be fully submerged and soaked longer.
    • Change water as it becomes dirty, too cold, or if a particularly strong flavored or fragrant produce item (leeks, cilantro, etc.) was previously in the sink.
  1. Drain water off product thoroughly before repacking and storing. Excess water accumulation in storage bin causes breakdown and decay.
    • Allow items to drain 3-5 minutes before re-banding and storing.
  1. Re-band after product drains and place in storage bin; move to cooler.
    • Do not band product too tightly. Avoid twisting leaves into the twist tie.
    • Band lettuce and celery ¼ down from the top—any lower and the tops of lettuce may flop over and rip off; any higher and the leaves get scrunched up and are not as visually pleasing.
    • Cool the re-hydrated product a minimum of 45 minutes to allow for crisping time.
  1. Place prepped produce in storage tubs.
    • Place lettuce, spinach, cilantro and leafy greens stem side down.
    • Allow plenty of room for the produce to retain its original shape; do not pack too tightly.
    • Place so product lifts easily out of the container without tearing or breaking leaves.
    • Make sure produce is not sitting in water.
    • Label, date and initial prepped produce, so if issues are identified they can be addressed.
  1. Clean the sink and knives and store supplies when finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

AR/Collections Representative

The AR/Collections Representative is responsible for leading Veritable Vegetable’s collection effort and managing the credit application process, including implementation of procedures to affect the timely collection, application and deposit of payments. This position participates in AR monthly close, prepares month end reports, and provides AR analysis.

Responsibilities:

  • Ensure that customer balances are within agreed, assigned terms
  • Resolve customer inquiries regarding their accounts
  • Advise customers of necessary actions and strategies for overdue account balance payment, and arrange balance payment schedules based on customers’ financial situations
  • Notify customers of credit holds for overdue accounts
  • Negotiate credit extensions when necessary
  • Pursue legal action when necessary
  • Track information about customer financial status and status of collection efforts
  • Manage customer credit application process
  • Perform various administrative functions for customer accounts, such as recording contact information changes and monitoring when customers’ status should change from active to inactive
  • Receive payments and post amounts paid to customer accounts
  • Prepare weekly and monthly AR, Sales reports
  • Prepare customer monthly statements for mailing
  • Prepare and enter monthly accounts receivable Journal Entries to the General Ledger
  • Perform daily filing and keep up-to-date

Qualifications:

  • 3+ years of experience in Collections and Accounts Receivable
  • Knowledge of legal options and requirements
  • Proficient in Excel and other Microsoft Office applications
  • Knowledge of Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) regulations and preservation of trust rights a plus

Physical Requirements:

  • Ability to lift full file boxes
  • Job tasks are performed in close physical proximity to other people
  • Ability to filter out extraneous noise while on the phone
  • Job requires constant computer work
  • Must be able to sit or stand for extended periods of time

Getting Figgy With It

Figs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although dried figs are available most of the year, nothing compares to the unique taste of fresh figs. Fresh figs have the perfect balance of sweet taste, chewy texture and their seeds provide a satisfying crunch.

The first mention of figs can be traced back as early as the Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt and made their way to ancient Greece around the 9th century BC. They were later introduced to other regions of the Mediterranean and brought to the Western Hemisphere by the Spaniards in the early 16th century.

Figs grow on the Ficus tree, which is a member of the mulberry family. They have an opening, called the “ostiole” or “eye” which helps the fruit’s development, aiding it in communication with the environment.

Figs differ in color and texture depending on the variety (more than 150!) Some popular varieties include: Black Mission, Kadota, Brown Turkey, Adriatic and Calimyrna. The California fig season usually lasts June through September so get some fig action before they’re gone!

 

*Keep a lookout for our staff picks noted in orange.

 

Fruit

Apple and Pear

It’s an exciting time in the world of apples as more California grown varieties are starting to come on. Gravenstein apples are an heirloom variety grown in California’s Sonoma County—where it was first planted in 1811. The apple has yellow-green skin with splashes of beautiful red coloring. Our taste tests found crisp and juicy texture and with aromatic sweet flavor. Keep an eye out for Pink Pearl, another heirloom variety that offers a colorful surprise inside with its rosy pink flesh and sweet-tart taste. California grown Gala, Granny Smith, and Macintosh apples have started. Jonafree, William Pride, Jonagold, Fuji and Red Delicious are expected to arrive at the end of the month. A heat wave in the Northwest has impacted apple supply coming from that region as excessive sun and heat often causes apples to drop.

California pear season has started!  Bartlett supply is steady. Hosui Asian is a staff favorite for its crispy texture and juicy flavor. Shinko Asian pear should be coming on soon.  California Bosc is expected to come on this month along with Starkrimson from the Northwest.

Avocado

The California crop is in serious short supply, and Mexican imports have been delayed, causing prices to skyrocket. But all the avocado marketing campaigns seem to have created a demand that matches the highest prices we have even seen! At least we can say the fruit is fantastic, and we are lucky to have any at all! We expect a few more weeks of limited quantities of domestic fruit, and will bring in Mexican grown Hass as soon as it is available. 

Berry

Raspberries and blackberries are in strong supply. Prices are promotable. Blueberry production from the Northwest has slowed due to heat and transition time to new varieties. The market is tight and prices are up.

Citrus

Valencia prices are on the rise. Supply is steady but expect the high prices to continue. At this point in the season, it is not uncommon to see fruit with some combination of orange and green skin. This is called “regreening.” Regreening is the fruit’s reaction to recent high temperatures. Warm weather can force the skin of Valencia oranges to reabsorb chlorophyll, the pigment in plants that gives them their green color, causing ripe fruit to partially turn green. However, the green color does not indicate unripe fruit nor affect the flavor and juiciness. Peruvian grown Minneola tangerines have arrived but supply is very limited. Lemons are in good supply with fruit from California and Mexico coming in. Fruit from California’s desert regions are about 3 weeks away. Meyer lemons are experiencing a short gap in supply but should be available soon. Limes are steady.

Fig

Fresh figs are a real summertime treat and we have plenty to meet your fig needs. Adriatic figs, sometimes called “white figs” have pale green to yellow skin with bright pink flesh inside. Their flavor is moderately sweet and works well as a dessert all on their own.  Black Mission figs have blackish-purple skin and dark pink insides. They are extremely sweet and often have syrupy juices which works well with a tangy cheese or yogurt! Brown Turkey have brownish-purple skin and milder flavor and less sweetness than other varieties. They work well in preparations where a sweetener might be used. Candy Stripe figs have beautiful pale green and yellow striped skin with deep red centers. Their flavor is bright and berry like.

Grape

Grapes are in good supply with many delicious varieties on the market. Champagne grapes offer intensely sweet flavor, with petite berries. Stella Bella, which means “beautiful star” is a green seedless variety prized for its large berry size, crisp texture, creamy color and clean flavor. Look for Thomcord grapes soon starting soon! This hybrid variety combines the popular Thompson seedless grape and Concord grape for an aromatic “labrusca” flavor mellowed by the Thompson’s mild sweet taste. Also on the horizon—Biodynamic Thompson seedless grapes from Marian Farms based in Fresno, California. Marian Farms grows grapes using Biodynamic agricultural practices and hand picks the grapes at peak ripeness. The grapes are harvested when they are at their sweetest which ensures ripe, full, and attractive fruit. Unlike both organic and conventionally grown grapes, they are never treated with gibberellic acid which is often sprayed on seedless grapes to increase grape size and yield.

Mango

Kent mango from Del Cabo is starting. These mangoes are grown exclusively in the Los Cabos region of the Baja peninsula, which has uniquely been designated a pest-free area. Unlike most other imported mangoes, Del Cabo’s do not require chemical or hot water treatment—a requirement that disrupts the ripening and compromises the integrity of the fruit. Instead, Del Cabo farmers harvest fully tree-ripened mangoes under the desert sun at their peak flavor. The fruit is creamy in texture and offers a rich fragrance.  These mangoes are also Fair Trade certified which means a premium from each sale goes back to programs to support the workers. The season lasts a short three weeks so don’t wait to try this variety. Esquire mangoes are also in good supply and tasting amazing. The flavor is subtly sweet.  This variety comes from the Salton Sea area in Southern California.

Melon

Mini seedless watermelon is plentiful and pricing is attractive on cartons. Bins from Rundle Family Farm is dwindling but supply should be steady with fruit from other growers. Honeydew volume is strong with promotable pricing. Cantaloupe is also steady. As for specialty melons, Snow Leopard from Say Hay Farms is limited and Ambrosia melons are extremely limited.

Specialty Fruit

Who will win in this game of summer fruit? Something tells us dragon fruit will come out on top. Supply is a bit uneven for this “super fruit” chock full of antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. Due to recent cool weather, there will be a short gap in supply, followed by a spike in production and then a steady flow through November. This beautiful and unique looking fruit has sweet kiwi-like flesh inside that varies from white to pink to red. The variety that we carry normally has magenta colored flesh.  The fruit’s outer skin is cactus like (but no spines), resembling that of the scales of a mythical dragon. Passion fruit supply is still going strong with sharp pricing. Known in Hawaii as Lilikoi, the fruit is tart, sweet and slightly acidic—this flavor is perfect for ice cream, smoothies and even cocktails!

Stone Fruit

Apricot supply from the Northwest is winding down. White apricots are done for the season. Giant Pearl white nectarines are a season favorite. This variety is packed with sweet and juicy flavor and a hint of subacid making for a delicious way to wind the season down. Redhead yellow nectarines from Ferrari Farms are going strong. This will likely be the last of the California yellow nectarines fruit. It’s been a tough season for yellow peaches. Several late season growers reported lower than normal harvests due to a late frost in May-June that impacted the crops. Supply is much more limited which means we will like not have an extended season of peaches this year. Pluots are in good supply and should last for a few more weeks. Black and red plums are steady and are expected to continue to be available into October.

 

Vegetables

Bean

Green beans are in strong supply. Lots of specialty beans available including purple, yellow, Romano and Chinese noodle beans. Chinese noodle beans are a gorgeous deep red color and grow up to 18” long!

Broccoli/Cauliflower

The broccoli market is volatile right now and prices are on the high side. Supply is limited due to aphid pressure in the fields. At this point in the season, it is common to see some “knuckling” on the heads, which is the uneven formation of florets. Knuckling occurs when there are long periods of daylight. Although a bit imperfect, knuckling is a natural occurrence that does not affect the flavor and quality. Romaneso is also limited in supply, but quality is high. Cauliflower is in better supply than its cruciferous counterpart. Graffiti cauliflower remains very limited, cheddar is somewhat limited and white is plentiful.

Cabbage

Green cabbage prices remain low. Red cabbage prices have come down as well. Napa cabbage supply is tight; prices are high. Savoy cabbage is limited with small sizing.

Cucumber

Slicer supply has improved greatly. The English cucumber market has tightened. Supply is very limited and prices are up.

Greens & Lettuce

We’re approaching the last couple months of the Salinas, California growing season for boxed greens. The market is stable for the time being but may experience fluctuations in price, supply and quality as growers begin transition back to the desert growing regions in the fall. Spring mix and spinach are in good supply. Bunched chard remains tight and prices are high. Green kale and dino kale are in good supply.

The lettuce market is relatively steady with good supply on most varieties including romaine, red leaf, green leaf and Little Gem.

Onion

The onion market is starting to stabilize. Yellow onions are in good supply with several growers on the market. Red onion is steady; prices should start coming down. Larger sizes on white onions is very limited but mediums should be available. Shallots are in strong supply.

Pepper

Green bell pepper is in strong supply. Orange and yellow bells are very limited. Red bells are limited but in better supply than orange and yellow. In Chile Land, serrano and jalapeno are plentiful and poblano is steady. Look for Hatch chiles starting up soon! This popular chile is named after the original growing region in Hatch, New Mexico. Hatch chiles grow in the Hatch Valley where intense sunlight and cool nights give these chiles their unique flavor. Hatch chiles range from mild-medium heat to hot.

Potato

Russets are in good supply and prices are holding steady. Prices are high on yellow and red potatoes from the Northwest. Lots of specialty potatoes available! Amarosa fingerlings have a beautiful red flesh and retain their color even when cooked. Their sweet and creamy flavor only enhances the uniqueness of this variety. Mascarade potatoes have attractive purple and white abstract shapes on the skin making them almost too pretty to eat!

Squash

There’s no shortage of variety in hard squash at this point in the season. Sugar Pie pumpkins have started! This petite pumpkin usually grows to 6-8 inches in diameter and is known for its sweet flavor and smooth firm texture. Butternut squash, acorn, delicata, Kabocha and spaghetti are all steady in supply.

Tomato

Heirlooms are in good supply and prices are holding steady. Roma availability seems to be improving. One and two layer slicing tomatoes are limited with high pricing. Recent cool temperatures in Northern California have provided less than ideal environments for tomato plants. Tomato-on-vine (TOV) prices are up slightly but supply is steady and provides a great alternative given the tight slicer market. Cherry tomato supply is improving and becoming more consistent.  Early Girls are starting to come on with both dry farmed and non dry farmed fruit available. Dry farming is a complex method of growing that produces less volume but more flavorful fruit. After a few waterings, irrigation is withheld from the rooted tomato plant. Look for these under the “Saladette” tomatoes on our list.

 

Grocery and Dairy

We offer organic tortillas from Mi Rancho which has been making tortillas since 1939. When Mi Rancho first opened in Oakland, California, it was the only Mexican grocery store in the area—drawing people from all around. Robert Berber Sr. and Robert Berber Jr. purchased Mi Rancho in 1954 and grew the business to become a permanent fixture in Oakland as the best place to find Mexican chiles, spices and fresh tortillas. Mi Rancho eventually expanded beyond the grocery store and focused on making premium tortillas accessible to more people. All Mi Rancho tortillas are still made at the company’s headquarters in San Leandro, California and whenever possible, are made with California ingredients. All tortillas are also certified Kosher by Orthodox Union.

We also offer Stueve Farm organic and biodynamic certified eggs, a variety cheeses from Sierra Nevada Cheese Company, organic milk and yogurts from Straus Family Creamery, maple products from Maple Valley Co-op, Hodo Soy tofu, Wild Rose Farms quinoa, Masa Farms brown rice, and Marian Farms raisins and almonds. Talk to your Account Manager to learn more about our certified organic grocery program.

 

Floral

Our floral program carries fresh organic flowers from Full Belly Farm and Thomas Farm, updated weekly for new seasonal varieties and mixes. Check with your Account Manager and subscribe to our weekly floral availability list for the most up to date details. Mixed bouquets from both growers are also available in various sizes as well as a rotating list of seasonal straight packs. Thomas Farm is offering Dahlia, Cosmo and Sunflower straight packs. Full Belly has added many new flowers to their offering including Strawflowers, Lacy Blue Statice, Zinnias, Cocks Comb, Lisianthus, Marigolds, Sunflowers and more! Strawflowers are a favorite this season. They have sturdy dry petal structure and come in vibrant shades or pinks, reds, oranges and whites. Brightens any room and works well for drying. Shipped in buckets with water, but packed inside boxes, organic flowers travel well, and stay fresh longer than non-organic flowers.

 

Merchandising Corner

Utilize Different Types of Effective Sampling

Active Sampling

A designated staff member or a third-party representative actively hands out samples to customers; don’t forget to sample with store staff as well so they become advocates for the Produce Department. Coupons and/or cross merchandised items can be incorporated into the sampling display. Merchandise the sampled items in close proximity to the sampling area so shoppers can easily grab the item(s) they enjoyed tasting.

Suggestive Sampling

Be ready to offer a sample whenever a customer asks “How does this taste?” or “Which of these tastes the best right now?” You can also offer information about the grower or suggested uses while cutting the item.

Passive Sampling

This sampling method lets the product speak for itself. Pre-cut the produce item and display the item in a tray under a sampling dome. Incorporate excellent signage near the display and make sure the item is displayed close by. As with active sampling, passive sampling can incorporate complimentary products such as cheese or dips.

 

A foray into food distribution

Reposted from Kitchen Table Advisors

The (secret) journey of a head of lettuce

You’re seated at your favorite neighborhood restaurant, getting ready to dig into a crisp summer salad. You can just picture how, earlier that day, a grinning, overall-clad farmer—let’s call her Maria—picked that perfectly curly head of lettuce, placed it gently in a handwoven basket, walked over to her red pickup truck, and headed to the city to hand it over, still glistening with morning dew, to Chef John.

Well… let’s pause there for a second. The reality is that many of us who didn’t grow up on a production farm have a deeply romanticized vision of farming. That’s not to say that farming isn’t beautiful or that feeding people isn’t romantic; but it also requires extended, often monotonous labor and generates quantities of fresh produce that, as individual eaters, we cannot quite comprehend.

When Maria harvests several pallets worth of lettuce in a day—and still has to tend to the other 20 crops on her farm, repair the shed, and balance her books—she cannot possibly deliver that lettuce a few pounds at a time to thirty restaurants. And on the flip side, a chef who is scrambling to prep for the dinner service cannot afford to visit a separate farm for each ingredient on his menu.

So how does that lettuce make it to Chef John’s kitchen, and why does its journey matter?

Food distributors: master choreographers

To answer that question, I visited Veritable Vegetable, also known as VV, a San Francisco-based distributor of fresh organic produce that has been in operation since 1974. (Yes, that’s more than four decades!)

Every single day, the staff of Veritable Vegetable – some 135 people in total – put on a flawlessly choreographed performance to get that lettuce from the farm to your plate. That performance involves 65,000 feet of warehouse space in SF’s Dogpatch neighborhood, a green fleet of 30 trucks, an extensive pricing list, banana boxes stacked like Jenga, and innumerable customer calls.

It’s a performance you may never hear about: food distributors like Veritable Vegetable work behind the scenes to aggregate, transport, store, and then redistribute produce to smaller buyers, such as restaurants, food cooperatives and independent grocery stores.

But even though they are out of sight, food distributors are absolutely indispensable to the health of our food system. In the words of Veritable Vegetable’s CEO, Mary Jane Evans, “Food distributors are like the gear in the middle that makes the wheels move in the same direction.” And according to a 2015 USDA survey, along with institutions such as schools and hospitals, distributors are responsible for as much as 39% of the direct farm sales of food nationwide. [1]

Just ask Krystin Rubin, co-owner of San Francisco’s Mission Pie and a VV customer for more than ten years: “Farmers’ markets are sexy, but honestly, if I need to buy 400 pounds of peaches, I’m not going to buy them at the farmers’ market. I don’t have a big enough hand truck.” She adds, “We continue to feel like, ‘Wow! What a resource to our business this is.’ We couldn’t do what we do without them.”

Veritable Vegetable: a food hub on a mission

Given their role as intermediaries, food distributors can have a big impact on their surrounding foodshed. For instance, they can decide whether to pick up from remote locations, what the minimum quantity is that they will purchase, and what kind of certification they require. Decisions like these can impact whether or not a farmer has a profitable season through greater access to markets.

Thankfully, the produce that passes through Veritable Vegetable is in good hands. Initially operating under the tagline, “Food for people, not for profit,” Veritable Vegetable was the first organic wholesaler in the nation. At a time when the National Organic Program didn’t even exist, VV’s founders were visiting farms to understand how the produce was grown and make sure the shed wasn’t full of chemicals. This is important, because while many of us associate organic with ‘sustainable’ or ‘good for the planet’, certification is also associated with higher farm profitability. [2] VV also educated farmers about food distribution to ensure that they were preserving the quality of their produce by picking at the right time and using the right packaging, for example.

Today, the company remains values-driven: it is a certified B-corp, is women-owned, diverts 99% of its waste from landfill, has invested in a zero-emissions truck fleet, strives to pay workers a fair wage, and so much more. To ensure that it can continue to do things right, Veritable Vegetable works hard to remain independent by virtue of a diverse client base, in which no single customer accounts for more than 5% of business.

Perhaps most importantly to the Kitchen Table Advisors audience, Veritable Vegetable continues to be deeply invested in the well-being of farmers. Christine Coke of Coke Farm, a Veritable Vegetable vendor since the 1980s, describes the distributor as “very supportive of growers”. Staff works with growers on crop planning for the following year to ensure that they are growing fruit and vegetables they will be able to sell and remain economically viable. When a farmer unexpectedly finds himself with triple the volume of honeydew melons he expected to harvest, the purchasing team picks up the phone, calling everyone in their network to place the surplus. More broadly, Veritable Vegetable strives to represent all of a farmer’s product that does not go into direct marketing, such as CSAs or farmers markets.

This work is invaluable for the health of our foodshed. Christine Coke explains, “One way Veritable Vegetable (and similar businesses) really impact the food system is that they support the small growers, the niche growers and give them an opportunity to thrive by giving them access to the market. They are interested in having a thriving, diverse agricultural community – smaller and larger, specialty and mainstream.”

Food activist, vegetable lover

By this point, you must be wondering who is behind this too-good-to-be-true enterprise.

I first heard the story of Bu Nygrens—Veritable Vegetable co-owner and director of purchasing—at a Real Food Real Stories event. That evening, Bu and fellow co-owner Karen Salinger shared their journey into organic food distribution with an eager group of listeners, speaking not just about produce, but also about collaboration, passion, and transparency. It was there that I learned that Bu first started thinking about the movement of food when her family was driving through one of the tunnels that connects Manhattan to the rural areas that supply much of its food. Looking out of the window, Bu wondered, “What would happen if the tunnel collapsed? Where would we get our food?”

I was thrilled to catch up with Bu again on July 4th. This was the only day she could catch her breath, as many of her customers were lighting up their grills, instead of placing orders for pallets of watermelons. We were sitting in her office, a stack of eclectic books balancing in one corner, a couple of peaches lounging in a bowl nearby, and the intercom periodically announcing customer calls.

Bu has been with Veritable Vegetable since the beginning, and I wanted to understand what keeps her going forty years later. Perhaps it’s a love for fresh produce. Bu loves English peas, cucumbers, and ripe tomatoes; she also has a soft spot for passion fruit. “Virtually any vegetable tastes good when it’s fresh! I thought I didn’t like green beans until I started tasting them here at VV to check their crispness. It turns out, I do like green beans! I just didn’t like my mom’s green beans,” she exclaims, laughing.


Photo from left to right: Mary Jane Evans, CEO, Karen Salinger, Director of Sales, Bu Nygrens, Director of Purchasing.

In reality, Bu explains that what keeps her going is the opportunity to touch so many different aspects of society and culture through food. Food carries memories, it brings comfort. But it is also a powerful tool for achieving social justice: “Nobody ever wonders who are the bus boys, the truck drivers, the apple pickers—they’re just not part of the public discourse. We need to empower them to tell their story.”

Bu has been a lifelong food activist, working toward a more equitable food system. She urges, “We need to understand how money flows in the system—it’s not just about who grew this, but also about who owns the land it grew on, and who earns the profit.” She has a point. Remember that lettuce we’ve been talking about? According to the National Farmers Union, a farmer earns just 26 cents out of an average retail price of $1.69 for a pound of (conventional) lettuce. [3]

This lack of transparency drives Bu and her team to work extra hard on information sharing, something their customers clearly value. To quote Christine Coke once again, “[Veritable Vegetable’s] communication is just really good. They don’t play the market, they don’t try to profit at the expense of growers. They make you aware of information they have. There’s honest discourse, which we really appreciate.” Krystin from Mission Pie refers to VV as a “brain trust” that has educated her along the way.

My conversation with Bu meanders through other big topics, including the importance of democratic infrastructure, the loss of farmland to development, the role of agriculture in alleviating climate change, and the power of female decision-making. These are the kinds of issues that motivate Veritable Vegetable’s work and bring Bu to the office on Independence Day.

With such inspired and thoughtful leadership at the helm, it is only natural that we can see Veritable Vegetable’s commitment to improving our food system extend beyond its direct business. The company has inspired many others and has built long-term partnerships with like-minded organizations to serve the community. You hardly even need to ask, and the praise starts pouring in:

“We have a deep relationship with Veritable Vegetable where they leverage their people, financial and social capital to support the economic viability of the next generation of sustainable small farms. Nicole Mason, Director of Marketing and Community Engagement, sits on our board and volunteers her time and talents helping shape the strategic direction of our work. The VV team has helped the farmers we support better understand how to successfully navigate working with distributors, as well as referred us farmers who might be a good fit for our program. And they have also provided financial and in-kind support as well as leveraged their social capital to connect us to values-aligned individuals and businesses that have supported Kitchen Table Advisors.”

— Anthony Chang, Founder of Kitchen Table Advisors

“Veritable has been an extraordinary partner and inspiration for Bi-Rite for years. Our relationship goes so much deeper than just a mere transaction. From collaborating on EcoFarm presentations to better understanding how we can use B Corp Certification to better measure and improve our positive impact, VV has fueled our mission of creating community through food. Their sourcing and farm relationships were instrumental in guiding our product sourcing mission, and their impact in the greater community continues to inspire our community engagement, and furthering the positive impact we can make on our people and planet as we pursue our B Corp mandate to be a business as a force for GOOD.”

— Sam Mogannam, Founder of Bi-Rite [4]

 

Be curious, be persistent

So what can you, as a reader and as an eater, do to support the journey of the lettuce? Bu offers some wisdom, ranging from the extremely practical, to the more philosophical:

  • Keep shopping with your eyes, your nose, your hands. Look at the produce, touch it, smell it.
  • Show up politically at the local and regional level. This is where you can really make a difference and make sure people get the kind of information they need to choose the food they buy.
  • Be curious, be persistent. If you stay curious, that means you are interested in the world, in people, in nature. If you are persistent, you won’t give up in the face of disappointment, which is inevitable when there is so much work to be done.

In the meantime, Veritable “still has so much to do,” according to Bu. She lists education, systems improvements, the adoption of ever-safer practices, new developments in green tech, and support for under served communities.

But the area of need she underscores most is succession planning—not just for Veritable Vegetable, but also for other organizations in the food and agriculture space, as well as for farmers. The food movement relies on a handful of leaders who are “great”, but Bu wonders what will happen once they step down. Similarly, many older farmers are looking to retire and—with their children now living in the city—looking for ways to transition their operations. USDA expects 10% of farmland to change hands by 2019. [5] We need solutions to support this transfer in a way that prevents further loss of farmland to development.

Whether we are talking about young farmers, food activists, or warehouse operators, we have to develop ownership paths for people that prepare them to take the lead. Only in this way can we ensure that fresh, ethically-grown lettuce will continue to reach our plates. Luckily, this is also top-of-mind for KTA, so I’m sure there are exciting opportunities for collaboration ahead.


[1] USDA, “Direct Farm Sales of Food: Results from the 2015 Local Food Marketing Practices Survey,” Dec. 2016, available from usda.gov.
[2] http://www.pnas.org/content/112/24/7611.abstract
[3] National Farmers Union, “The Farmer’s Share,” available from nfu.org.
[4] This testimonial was kindly made available by Real Food, Real Stories. Learn more about them 
here.
[5] AgWeb, “Did You Know? 10% of Farmland Will Change Hands by 2019”, Aug. 29, 2016.