Produce Passes All Residue Testing in 2017

FDA Produce Residue Sampling “Once Again” Verifies Safety

Last week the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its 2017 pesticide residue sampling data results. FDA concluded: “The latest set of results demonstrate once again that the majority of the foods we test are well below the federal limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Note the term “once again” in FDA’s statement. They used it because government residue sampling data year after year reaffirms the safety of our food and the exceptionally high level of compliance among farmers with laws and regulations covering the use of organic and conventional pesticides.

Let’s get a little technical for a moment and focus on how FDA residue sampling is protective of consumers. FDA employs a three-fold strategy to enforce the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) tolerances or safety standards for pesticide residues.
If you haven’t heard – September is National Fruit and Vegetable month. Yes, it is time to celebrate the only food group health experts and nutritionists agree we should all eat more of every day for better health and a longer life.
While decades of studies have shown the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables are overwhelming and significant, the safety of both organic and conventional produce is also impressive. Government sampling data shows an over 99% compliance rate among farmers with the laws and regulations required for pesticide applications on organic and conventional fruit and vegetable crops. This led the United States Department of Agriculture to state that: “The U.S. food supply is among the safest in the world.”

Many health organizations are promoting National Fruit and Vegetable month to remind consumers about the importance of increasing consumption – only one in 10 of us eat enough of these nutrient-packed foods each day.

However, studies show a growing barrier to consumption is fear-based messaging which inaccurately calls into question the safety of the more affordable and accessible fruits and veggies. This messaging is predominantly carried by the same activist groups year after year despite studies which show that “prescriptions” for fruits and veggies could reduce health care costs by $40 billion annually. Or that 20,000 cancer cases could be prevented each year.

2019-09-23T15:06:22-07:00September 23rd, 2019|

Frieda’s Karen Caplan Fears No Fruit

Frieda’s  – A Legacy of Introducing Americans to Exotic Fruits & Vegetables


By Laurie Greene, Editor


Karen Caplan, CEO and president, Frieda’s Inc., the 54 year old family business that first introduced kiwi fruit to America in 1962, recounted, “We’ve probably introduced close to 200 exotic fruits and vegetables to American consumers, mostly through supermarkets, but also through restaurants. We continue to introduce new and exotic fruits and vegetables. You’ve got the kiwi fruit; you’ve got sun-dried tomatoes; you’ve got habanero chilies, spaghetti squash, alfalfa sprouts, hothouse cucumbers, shallots, purple sweet potatoes, and purple potatoes.

PurpleKiwiBook_Karen Caplan


Caplan knows consumers love to try new products and new foods. “We really credit the TV Food Networks,” she explained. “If you’re watching ‘Chopped’ one night or any of the other food shows and you see these exotic fruits and vegetables like our purple snow peas as a secret ingredient, and you watch a couple of chefs cook with them, you say, ‘Wow that’s really exciting. I never would have picked that up at the grocery store.’ Consumers go to their local grocery store and find those products. It works in a synergistic way, but we continue to have new varieties of fruits and vegetables to introduce.”


Caplan continued, “It is wonderful that American supermarkets seem to realize consumers are passionate about trying these new foods. I think they realize that if they don’t offer the exotic fruits and vegetables, like tropical fruits, different varieties of citrus fruits and some of the peppers, consumers are going to go online and either order them as meals through Blue Apron or purchase the products on Amazon Fresh.”

Fear No Fruit, The Frieda Caplan Documentary

Fear No Fruit, The Frieda Caplan Documentary


At Frieda’s, we represent about 1,000 different suppliers, mostly farmers. About half of them are in California; the rest are outside of California and around the world. I think the biggest challenges shared by all our farmers, are first of all—water and how to use it efficiently, and then number two—how do we find the labor to pick our products.


When asked how farmers are doing, Caplan replied, “I in awe of farmers. I heard a peach and plum and grape grower speak this morning about his passion. He said, ‘I love this business. I could stop growing this product right now and make more money by putting in nuts, which I could harvest automatically.’”


Caplan continued, “I think what’s so admirable about farmers is they do have a passion for the land and for their products. We’re seeing resurgence in young people wanting to come into the business because everyone has to eat of course; but they love the lifestyle that goes along with it and the work-life balance.

Frieda Rapoport Caplan, Ph.D., founder & chair of the Board, Frieda’s Inc. established Frieda’s Finest/Produce Specialties Inc. in 1962, in the male-dominated Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. One of very few women in the produce industry at the time, and the first to own and operate a U.S. produce business, Frieda debuted with a purple sign, which later became the company’s signature color, and her premier product was fresh brown mushrooms – an unusual specialty at that time. She quickly developed a reputation for buying and selling new and unusual produce specialties.

Frieda’s two daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, head up the family company and the third generation, Karen’s eldest daughter Alex Jackson, has linked in too. 


2016-08-25T12:32:20-07:00August 25th, 2016|

More Rain, More Fungi, More Use for Multiuse Fungicides

With More Rain, More Fungi, More Use for Multiuse Fungicides

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

With spring rains, many vegetables, tree fruits, grapes and nuts succumb to fungi pressure. However, during the past few years, only trivial amounts of spring rain have moistened California’s soil and lulled farmers to abandon their vigilant watch for fungi proliferation. But now, the strong likelihood of El niño-driven wet weather this spring could catch growers off-guard.

“We have an El niño coming that has already been tagged, ‘Too big to fail,’ which will bring a lot of rain. So it’s really important for folks to think about switching gears this year on their pest management mindset. With more rain, comes more fungi disease. We always see really high pressure disease years with rain,” said Kate Walker a technical services representative with BASF Corporation on the Central Coast, who advises use of a multiuse fungicide product already on hand.

Anthracnose in Strawberries, UC Statewide IPM Project

Anthracnose in Strawberries (Source: UC Statewide IPM Project

Strawberries, in particular, are vulverable to fungi. “We have heard from our strawberry growers,” said Walker, “that these fungal diseases are always present in California, but they vary significantly in their severity year-to-year depending on the weather,” noted Walker.

“One major disease that accompanies higher moisture, Anthracnose, often called leaf, shoot, or twig blight,” Walker explained, “results from infection caused by the fungus Colletotrichum. I’ve heard some growers have not experienced Anthracnose issues in 10 years,” said Walker. “As it emerges and becomes more problematic in strawberries, farmers really need to know which types of fungicides to use to manage this and other diseases.”

“It is very important for farmers and PCAs to walk through and scout their fields for disease,” Walker said, “and when they identify one, to become very aggressive with their fungicide management program. So, as representatives for BASF, we are lucky to have multiuse fungicide products available to control these diseases, such as Merivon Fungicide.”

Walker noted Merivon has two modes of action, “so it is very broad-spectrum. Typically we position Merivon in California for use on powdery mildew and Botrytis, but what we seldom talk to growers about is its utility for Anthracnose. We see a lot more  Anthracnose in Florida and on the East Coast due to the increased rains; whereas, it usually doesn’t come through every year in California. So it is good to for farmers and PCSs to know that the product with which they are familiar for use in Botrytis, is also very effective with other issues, like Anthracnose.”

Walker offered, “Another very common disease that flourishes with increased rain, Rhizopus, occurs post-harvest, after the berries are picked up from the field. Again, Merivon has utility for Rhizopus as well, so growers don’t have to change or reinvent their program to manage these diseases.”

Walker said, “Rhizopus is an airborne bread mold. It is very common in the air and in the soil, so anytime a fruit or a nut is exposed to the spores blowing in the wind, it is vulnerable to infection with this disease.”

2016-05-31T19:27:02-07:00December 4th, 2015|

Joe Marchini, Mr. Radicchio

Joe in truckJoe Marchini Brings Radicchio to California

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

Joe Marchini, of J. Marchini Farms, was born in 1938 to Italian parents who farmed and packed tomatoes in Le Grand, Calif. Marchini has lived and worked in that locale for his whole life, exemplifying a high level of spirit and accomplishment.

His father, Florindo Marchini, brought his family over from Tuscany in 1920.” They settled in Le Grand because Florindo’s brother was already living there when Florindo first arrived. Before long, Florindo met a long time grower by the name of Carlo Giampaoli who invited Marchini to grow tomatoes and bell peppers with him. So Giampaoli took Florindo Marchini under his wing, and his brother as well, and established their farm, Giampaoli-Marchini Company. Together, they packaged tomatoes under the Live Oak brand because they actually packed the produce by hand in the shade of a live oak tree that still thrives there today!

Florindo’s son, Joe Marchini, was around seven when he began working at the packing shed stamping produce boxes. “I would sit on a box,” he said, “and as they came down the line, I used a little stamp pad to size tomatoes 6/6, 7/7, 7/8, 5/6, 4/4, 3/4. I only worked about 3-4 hours a day, and that was it. The older I got, the more I became involved in different things, from stamping, to packing, to wrapping tomatoes in cellophane paper and putting them in a box.”

The tomatoes were packed green and transported back east by train in ice cars. “They weren’t pink ones; no, they were dead green! They knew when to pick them, when the gel formed inside of the tomatoes,” Marchini said. “They could tell by the color and the shine of the tomatoes, and that’s what the pickers were supposed to pick. They were going to break soon. It took about a week, running day and night, to get to New York on steamer trains.”

“The early farming venture was comprised of 150 acres, which was a lot of acreage with horses,” said Marchini. “In the fall, we would travel to Gustine and cut tulles and bamboo for our tomato stakes.”

“My two brothers, Richard and Leonard Marchini, went to school with me. None of us could speak any English; we only spoke Italian,” Marchini said. So they all learned English in a small schoolhouse with two classrooms and one teacher.

“My dad grew tomatoes on that land for two years and then planted 40 acres of almond trees. The almonds were harvested green and then dried down by air.” Of course this was before mechanical shakers were used to harvest, so it was done with mallets and tarps. “It was very tough work,” noted Marchini, “and the price of almonds was less than 60 cents a pound.” Marchini credits Blue Diamond Growers, a cooperative he joined, with marketing the almonds so prices could increase.Radicchio


Mr. Radicchio

Not satisfied with growing only tomatoes and almonds, Joe Marchini was always looking for something new to grow. In 1962 on a trip to Italy, Joe noticed fields of radicchio, a leafy Italian chicory and relative of endive, in the Venice area and found the crop was selling well in Italian grocery stores. He said, “I liked the crop and thought it would grow well in California, so I smuggled in little packages of seeds.”

Unfortunately, the seeds he brought back did not grow well. “Radicchio production wasn’t perfected and the source I had in Italy did not tell me what season the seeds were for.” Marchini’s radicchio would grow and form green leaves but not make a head. So Marchini went back to Italy, 40 miles southeast of Venice, to talk to growers, but no one would talk. “I certainly could not tell the guys that I was going back to the U.S. to grow the crop,” he said.

Marchini finally found a couple of growers to ship a 100-pound sack of seeds to San Francisco for him. “I picked up the bag, planted the seed and the same thing happened—it didn’t grow.” He called the Italian growers and asked how many different radicchio varieties they were growing. They told him eight varieties. “I asked them why they sent me only one variety, why they did not tell me when to plant the seed, and if they wanted me to buy more seed, they had better tell me what varieties to grow,” he said.

“Since I spoke Italian, the growers started to open up. Eventually, I brought them to the U.S., and we partnered up to grow radicchio. I even sent them to Mexico because they thought they could produce an earlier crop than in California,” Marchini said. After reaching mediocre success for about four years in Mexico, they moved back to California to work with Marchini, now without a partnership.

The company now productively farms in Mexico with the right seed. “We farm in Mexico for the winter crop in February, March and April. But before we started growing in Mexico, in the late 1970s, we started in Salinas and then in the San Joaquin Valley. The Italian growers knew what to plant and we got all the varieties in the right mode that would do well. The Italians wanted to be partners again and I declined it because I had kids coming up, but I told them that I would buy all the seeds from them, and they were making good money. So they ended up disclosing the secret in the whole deal of growing radicchio. So without them, and me speaking Italian, we would have never gotten started. We are still friends today and I’m still buying seed from them,” Marchini said.

Over the years, Marchini has worked with his son Jeff to plant the right seed at the right time. They learned which varieties could handle different climates, such as going into the heat, and coming out of the heat, and they emerged with 6 or 7 dependable varieties.

“So we plant six varieties in the fall, one week after the other. We can have radicchio in the San Joaquin Valley from November until March, and we harvest seven days a week.

His processors want radicchio 12 months out of the year, so Marchini’s company manages harvesting to fill the sales pipeline 12 months a year. “And we never run out of it,” he said.

Joe's Premium LogoToday, Marchini uses about 12 different labels, including his own image on the ‘Joe’s Premium Radicchio’ box, for the domestic market and select export markets. “We let global importers pick their own labels. J. Marchini ships all over the world now, including Italy, and has a large percentage of the market in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. “They love the color of radicchio in a blend,” he said.

J. Marchini deals with nearly every processor in California including Taylor Farms, Apio, Fresh Express, Dole, Earth Bound, and Ready Pac, year-round, with production from Kern to Merced counties and Mexico.

Managing all this production with Joe and his son Jeff (the third generation), are grandchildren Marc and Nic and Francesca (fourth generation), with the fifth generation coming along with Gabriella, Maximus and little Giuseppe, named after his great-grandfather Joe (Giuseppe). Marc and Francesca work in the sales and post-harvest side of the business. Nic works in the farming operation side of the business. Jeff oversees the company as a whole.

Overseeing production, and especially the harvest of the radicchio throughout the growing regions, including Mexico, is Alejandro Calderon, Joe Marchini’s right hand since day one. Jenny MacAfee, a key person in the sales department, has been on board for the last 20 years.

Today Marchini farms three main radicchio varieties: Castelfranco (white head with red polka dot specks), Treviso (elongated red with white ribs), and Palo Rosa (red head type with white veins). “We do a three-pack deal in the wintertime with all three varieties together, but we also grow many other varieties,” said Marchini.

J. Marchini Farms’ production operation, based in Watsonville, a great climate for radicchio in the summer months, includes 2,000 acres spread between the Central Valley, the Coastal areas and Mexico.

The Central Valley fall and winter nighttime temperatures are cool, and radicchio production, five lines down the row on 80-inch beds, is about 20,000 pounds per acre, with most of it on drip or sprinkler.

The operation also grows almonds, walnuts, fresh figs and other crops, “but radicchio has been a good ride,” said Marchini. “We have had ups and downs with the crop, but overall it has provided a good cash flow,” he said.


For the last three years, Joe Marchini has been dealing with Squamous Cell Carcinoma (the second most common form of skin cancer) and has undergone multiple surgeries and treatments. His love for his family and his incredible passion for farming keep him going.


J. Marchini Farms

2016-05-31T19:27:06-07:00October 16th, 2015|
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