Imagine the amount of heart it would take to be a pioneer in the produce industry. An ineffable quality that lives inside someone, bursting with curiosity and imagination. It is a level of determination difficult to put into words, though I will do my best to build this story stone by stone.
I found a proverbial gold mine while speaking with the leaders of Ocean Mist® Farms. The act of pioneering a category as unique as artichokes did not include a clear-cut path, but there is at least one crucial quality that comes naturally to this company: heart. Not only is it what keeps our blood pumping, but having heart is an innate ability to lead with our truest intentions. This is what lies at the very core of Ocean Mist’s being—a precious stone that cannot be broken.
“We know what we want in an artichoke,” began Paul Scheid, Vice President of Production. “Because it is our flagship commodity, Ocean Mist Farms has the incentive and obligation to invest our time and resources into developing the best artichoke varieties for our customers.”
In the early 1920s, nearly one hundred years ago, Ocean Mist Farms entered the ring with distinguished passion and drive. What began as a fierce determination to establish a footing in a new country for the founding families has since evolved into a world-renowned fresh produce operation led by expertise in artichoke variety development.
In the early years, as Paul explained to me, Ocean Mist grew a perennial heirloom artichoke variety that produced a large supply in the spring with little production in the summer, fall, and winter. By the ’80s, the company set out on its pursuit of being a year-round artichoke supplier, developing a new variety that would change the commodity forever.
“We wanted to create an annual variety to supplement the traditional springtime production with a consistent year-round supply of artichokes. Our search for the ideal artichoke included trips to the Mediterranean region, the birthplace of the commodity, and to South America, including Chile, Colombia, and Peru,” Paul said. “In 1997, Ocean Mist introduced its new annual variety on a production scale, and our dream of producing year-round artichokes became a reality.”
Through bright minds and steady hearts, Ocean Mist Farms’ varietal development program truly struck gold. By that same token, the grower introduced its Gold Standard varieties to its crops in Castroville, Coachella, and Oxnard, California, and Mexico.
The Gold Standard is an overarching belief that the company has sustained for years based on its core values of quality, passion, integrity, and success, as Senior Director of Marketing Diana McClean expressed.
“In the last two years, we have named and emphasized the Gold Standard as a brand identifier that infiltrates everything we do from varietal development, plant cultivation, harvest practices, cooling, quality assurance, and food safety to our marketing strategies, all the way to the nutritious and delicious eating experience of an Ocean Mist Farms-branded item,” she continued. “This Gold Standard is what sets us apart in the produce section of the grocery store, and our retail partners continue to choose us to put their name behind.”
Because artichokes are considered a niche crop, few operations compare to the size, complexity, and history of Ocean Mist’s program. The grower evaluates over 1,100 individual selections annually, leading to its large collection of artichoke breeding material from around the globe.
“Because it is our flagship commodity, Ocean Mist Farms has the incentive and obligation to invest our time and resources into developing the best artichoke varieties for our customers.”
Paul Scheid, Vice President of Production, Ocean Mist® Farms
That Gold Standard is carried throughout Ocean Mist’s partnerships with some of the world’s most prolific breeding intellects, headlined by two essential programs: one which uses traditional plant breeding techniques, and a second which develops varieties using high-tech plant breeding.
The individuals who have grown the industry-leading operation into its current form have planted their being within the heart of each artichoke, leaving a sprinkle of gold dust hidden among every leaf.
“At Ocean Mist Farms, the team behind our artichoke production is comprised of the experts. We use their insights to drive the development program and determine which artichoke varieties to develop in order to meet our goals,” Paul explained. “Originally, our goals for the program were to provide year-round production, high yield, and a superior appearance.”
But like any company, Ocean Mist’s goals have since evolved, honing in on what makes an artichoke a superior eating experience, and boiling it down to flavor and edibility.
“In addition to being a nutritious and unique vegetable, we also want our artichokes to provide exquisite flavor and texture. Our consumers don’t eat artichokes simply because vegetables are healthy, but because they provide an eating experience unlike any other,” Paul told me. “For the future, we are looking within to develop pest and disease resistance—the sustainability aspect of our artichoke production.”
With the proper cultivation, irrigation, and fertilization of its crops, both conventional and organic varieties of Ocean Mist’s Gold Standard artichokes grow into some of the largest, most high-quality varieties on the market. It’s been said that not all that glitters is gold, but in the case of Ocean Mist Farms’ artichokes, this could not be further from the truth.
As Paul mentioned, unearthing a truly fantastic product in terms of the supply chain is only half the battle. Once it had climbed that mountain, Ocean Mist looked back at its history and asked, “How can we make our artichokes even more appealing on the shelf?”
Beyond the impressive size and unrivaled taste of Ocean Mist artichokes, the company set out to create a cult-like eating experience to wow the masses. This summer, the prized Gold Standard artichoke entered its next phase of innovation as the Purple Artichoke came to fruition.
“Our plant breeding team understood that purple is a color many artichoke varieties exhibit,” Paul commented. “The color is naturally occurring and can show up as a subtle basal blush or a general hue over the entire artichoke. Through our breeding programs, we discovered that some artichokes were more purple than others. Those crosses were further refined to produce a consistently purple artichoke variety while maintaining the great flavor and edibility our products are known for.”
Diana meditated on Paul’s thought for a moment before launching into the possibilities that this flowering vegetable possesses.
“This Gold Standard is what sets us apart in the produce section of the grocery store, and our retail partners continue to choose us to put their name behind.”
Diana McClean, Senior Director of Marketing, Ocean Mist® Farms
“Introducing this variety to the market in June of 2020 lined up beautifully with shopper trends and demand for new, fresh vegetables and experimentation in both meal preparation and flavors,” she said. “Because we’ve been around for so long, we are very thoughtful and methodical with new varietal research and development. Identifying the optimum intersection of consumer demand and new item availability is an essential strategy for maximum impact.”
The mineral masterpiece that is Ocean Mist Farms is far from its final form. Gold is one of the few elements that remain pure amidst the forces of nature—a worthy comparison for these artichoke experts. Company stalwarts like Paul and Diana continue to lead with their hearts, ever at the forefront of Ocean Mist’s unstoppable momentum.
So, as we all grow more familiar with the mineral elements at our core, let us remember this: To have your heart set on something of gravity is one of life’s greatest gifts.