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Cultivating Innovation

Carl Mastronardi, President and CEO of DelFrescoPure®, looks as though he sprung from the earth he loves so much.

He exudes an energy that commands attention, and when he’s discussing the latest innovations the greenhouse grower is putting forward, the passion in his voice is difficult to turn away from.

It may not be easy to imagine Carl in a place of non-leadership, but at a very young age, he was in the position that many in our industry rise from. He worked on the family farm, performing multiple farmhand tasks. You can imagine the scope: His duties ranged from planting and harvesting to packing. With this education at his back, he also developed a love of produce from his father and his uncles, who guided him to the role he holds today: a hands-on owner-operator. His mother, too, developed this love, instilling in him a passion for feeding families.

Carl Mastronardi, President and CEO, DelFrescoPure®“She had a no-waste mentality and a respect for produce,” Carl shares with me. “The no-waste mentality led me to seek innovative solutions to grow sustainable produce, whether I was selling it or donating it. We formed a small fruit stand at the family farm and named it, ‘Carl’s.’ My mother and I operated the stand for local customers who enjoyed the culinary tips we had on how to prepare tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and other seasonal produce.”

Building upon the humble beginnings and success of this stand, Carl went on to purchase multiple local farms in the Leamington and Kingsville, Ontario, area. He wanted to ensure that he could fully offer his local and retail customers a larger selection of produce to meet the demands of the consumer.

It’s easy to see where DelFrescoPure fits into all of this. A family affair of its own, the greenhouse operation was established in 2006 and continues to be a pioneer in new and innovative greenhouse-grown produce. Located in the heart of Ontario’s booming greenhouse industry, DelFrescoPure once stood at only one acre. Today, it has upwards of 100 acres of greenhouse production.

Carl may be the main grower, but he has taken on the role of his forebears in a way.

DelFrescoPure® greenhouse grown strawberries

“It’s a family business, and I wanted my family to take part in my love of growing,” he explains. “Over the years, I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge from growing a variety of items, and I can’t imagine sharing that with anyone else. The combination of our grower team provides a combined experience of over sixty years. We all have the same approach: hands-on and active every day.”

Managing over 100 acres is not a simple task, but Carl has just the right people for the job. The grower team consists of Carl; his son, Chris Mastronardi; and his nephews, Partner and COO Jamie D’Alimonte and Grower Jason D’Alimonte. Carl’s other son and Partner, Ray Mastronardi, Vice President of Sales, heads up the robust sales team, which manages national accounts from Ontario to eastern Canada and down to the United States. And the office operations are spearheaded by Suzy and Tina D’Alimonte, Jason and Jamie’s wives, respectively.


Carl Mastronardi, President & CEO, DelFrescoPure®

“We’re truly a family-run business from seed to table,” Carl remarks, and the pride in his voice is evident. “And the dedicated team that surrounds us has a deep respect and gratitude from becoming a part of this working family. The dedication from the whole team comes from our ‘We’re all in this together because we are all a family’ attitude, which allows us to run effectively and efficiently.”

This attitude lends itself to the careful management of DelFrescoPure’s vast range of commodities, which include tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, and flat bean. The products born of these labors include popular brands such as Dragon’s Fire™ Hot Pepper Mix, Fiesta Mix™ TOV Collection, Sweetreats® Sweet Mini Peppers, Mini Crunches Cucumbers®, Euro Bean The Gourmet Slicing Bean® Flat Beans, Mini Mixers® Snacking Grape Tomato blends, Delights Blushing with Flavor® Cocktail Tomatoes, G.R.EAT! Grab Rinse Eat® Grape Tomatoes, and Romatalia® Roma Tomatoes.

The company’s latest commodity, however, is one that builds upon DelFrescoPure’s drive to deliver premium produce backed by market research and new tech: greenhouse-grown strawberries.

Carl’s fruit stand, located at the family farm in Leamington, Ontario

“In July 2016, my partner, Jamie, and I tested one acre of strawberries in the greenhouse. Upon completion of the trial and samples sent to local and national retailers, we knew we had a niche market,” he says. “In September 2017, we retrofitted ten acres of a cucumber greenhouse to grow strawberries with HPS (High-Pressure Sodium) grow lights to produce strawberries all-year-long. In 2018 and 2019, we were the only greenhouse grower to offer greenhouse-grown strawberries in the winter months.”

During 2018 greenhouse strawberry production, DelFrescoPure promoted these strawberries under the brand YES!BERRIES Your Everyday Snack!™ Strawberries. The communication plan was extensive. Local Registered Dietitians promoted the message of locally-grown strawberries. Social media campaigns hit the web. Videos, TV segments, and feature ads with retail partners swept through Ontario.

And, to add fuel to the berry flame, these strawberries have officially been Certified Pesticide Free from SCS Global Services, making it one of the first and only Certified Pesticide Free strawberries in North America.

“Certified Pesticide Free is reserved for products that have been grown with no pesticides whatsoever,” Carl states. “When we started our strawberry journey in 2016, we used the same protocols to combat pests, and our best practices lead us to the Certified Pesticide Free designation. The buyers appreciate this certification and there’s certainly going to be a marketplace for that.”

The team of DelFrescoPure®; From left to right: Suzy D’Alimonte, Ray Mastronardi, Carl Mastronardi, Jamie D’Alimonte, and Tina D’Alimonte

In addition, Certified Pesticide Free products are subjected to auditing as well as laboratory testing. This certification provides assurance from farm to table that pesticides are not used.

National and local retailers alike gave a resounding yes to the new program, resulting in DelFrescoPure’s six-acre addition to its strawberry production, bringing the total up to 17 acres.

“We are proud of our strawberry program and this is just the beginning of our berry adventure,” Carl beams.

This certification truly solidifies DelFrescoPure’s brand and vision. The proactive team behind the Certified Pesticide Free strawberries is consistently and passionately analyzing market trends and demands in order to service its customers at the highest level. Because, at the end of the day, the family and the team are all about excellence. When you wake up each morning with a seed of hope and drive like that planted in every decision, there is no limit to the heights a strawberry program can grow.

Like Carl said, this is only the beginning. And, as you can imagine with a company like DelFrescoPure, it isn’t the only adventure the greenhouse grower is embarking on. With DelFrescoPure helping to lead a charge toward innovation, I can’t wait to see where our industry is headed next. After all, nothing ventured, nothing gained.