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M&R Farms is being recognized as a 2015 Champion and will be honored during the Produce for Better Health Foundation 2016 annual conference!

East coast growers launch organic spring mix initiative

Despite challenges presented by geography and climate, M&R Farms has launched the east coast’s first large-scale organic spring mix growing program, with product set to hit the market in January 2016.

“We are bringing organic baby greens to the eastern United States, and we’re the first grower to do that [on a commercial scale],” says Roger Zlotoff, M&R’s president. Zlotoff says that M&R’s year round program will be based out of Florida during the winter and out of New York state during the summer, giving east coast retailers and wholesalers a fresher, lower-cost alternative to southwest-grown organic greens.

The operation’s first planting went in earlier this week, with first harvests expected in early January. “We’ll be harvesting in probably 30 days,” says Zlotoff.

High interest from retailers & wholesalers

Zlotoff says that while growing conditions make California and Arizona ideal for organic greens, many east coast retailers and wholesalers find that shipping from west coast creates environmental and quality concerns. “Up to this point, organic greens have been grown on the west coast because it’s a dry, arid climate, so the needs for pesticides and fungicides are much less,” says Zlotoff.

But as Zlotoff explains, the miles between southwest growers and east coast consumers means that eastern buyers don’t receive product at peak freshness. “You’re getting product that’s several days old,” says Zlotoff, citing reductions in flavor, shelf life, and mineral content – as well as increased fuel cost – as major concerns for east coast retailers.

Zlotoff says that he has received high levels of interest from both retailers and wholesalers around M&R’s product launch due to consumer pressure. “More and more consumers are concerned about the carbon footprint of what they eat. More and more consumers want locally grown produce.” Zlotoff adds that M&R’s program has been designed with buyers and consumers in mind, with full organic and food safety certification.

Operation presents “challenges”

With largely unfavorable conditions on the east coast for organic greens, M&R has faced several obstacles in developing their program. “The problem is growing it in Florida, where you have more humidity and different soil,” says Zlotoff of his company’s first planting. “We’ve been working for about a year to try to figure it out.”

“The first challenge is finding the right land,” he continues, noting that soil, hydrology, and drainage were major concerns. In the end, M&R settled on a plot of land located in Labelle, FL, where they have planted 50 acres for their initial winter season, with plans to double that count for next year.

“This is our first season, so we may have some challenges, and we may have some obstacles,” Zlotoff concedes. But Zlotoff adds that all indications on crop and demand have been positive. “We’ve had a great response from the market so far.”

For More Information
  • Arit Brener
  • M&R Farms, LLC
  • Phone: 1 (917) 570-5306