I have had the pleasure of calling several vastly different cities my home. From the dry desert of Phoenix, Arizona, and the humid coast of Charleston, South Carolina, to the busy Snack headquarters here in Sacramento, California, the red push pins that litter my U.S. map each hold a small yet treasured piece of my life history.
Each individual dot represents the soil I rooted myself in before the unforeseen growth that was to come—a vital contribution to the woman who pens this piece today.
All of that is to say, if anyone understands the magnitude of being in the right physical location, it’s me.
For Ocean Mist® Farms, its stomping grounds are as important as the premium offerings it produces. The grower has been wielding its supply-side prowess to produce high-quality vegetables in California’s Coachella Valley for over three decades.
Run by Vice President of Production in Coachella Jeff Percy, the agronomy expert has played an instrumental role in building Ocean Mist Farms’ program in the company’s Coachella growing operation since 1992. Today, Jeff manages all of the supplier’s branded vegetable production on owned land along with a combination of outside growers, and plays a critical role in the selection and breeding of proprietary and superior artichoke varieties.
“Our programs are successful because we have a deepened knowledge of the Coachella Valley and the intricacy of cultivation and production here,” Jeff remarks, pointing out that the company first began operating out of the growing region in 1990. “The owners picked the area because of its unique climate and placement, and began growing here to provide year-round production in a diversified location.”
Ocean Mist Farms currently produces a full line of both organic and conventional vegetables out of the region, which includes artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower, Romaine lettuce, celery, Brussels sprouts, and spinach.
If the grower’s impressively robust portfolio does not make it evident enough, the distinct climate of the Coachella Valley makes it an ideal location for bringing a diverse lineup of vegetables to market. While the praised region lacks a little red pin on my personal map, I feel I’m no stranger to the arid desert valley as Jeff breaks down all of the precise reasons it is the perfect territory for the Ocean Mist Farms operation.
“The weather is warmer than other typical California desert growing regions,” he discloses, and I can’t help but compare it to my childhood summers in the scorching Arizona heat. “That warmer weather mitigates impact on the crops, like the blistering on Iceberg or Romaine caused by frost that can happen in colder growing regions, for example.”
Jeff goes on to explain that the Coachella Valley is originally known for dates, grapes, and citrus, and the variety of vegetables produced in the region is extremely limited. With less vegetable production, there is less opportunity for disease and pest pressures to develop, presenting a crucial advantage to Ocean Mist Farms.
“Another great benefit is the sandy soil,” Jeff continues. “It allows us to plant and harvest, even when it is wet from the rain. And, with the pertinent need to conserve water supply, we have some of our crops on sprinklers that optimize water usage. About 60 percent of our crop is on drip, and the other 40 percent is on sprinklers that use less water than furrow irrigation.”
While the premium location obviously brings several key advantages to the grower, it also presents lucrative opportunities for the buy-side, as the crops on drip are earlier to harvest than those in Yuma, Arizona. Additionally, the Ocean Mist Farms operation is conveniently located on the I-10, a major East/West interstate, easing transportation logistics for retailers.
“We’re only 120 miles from Los Angeles and 20 million people,” Jeff laughs.
As Jeff maps out the Coachella growing season for me, his passion for both production efficiency and providing an unparalleled eating experience shine through, and he presents me with a closer look at the dynamic process of bringing exceptional varieties from the fields to the stocked shelves of its retail partners.
“We begin planting between August and December, depending on the crop. For example, we plant Brussels sprouts in August and spinach later on in October. Harvesting typically begins November 20 and runs until the end of March,” he states.
When I ask him how Ocean Mist Farms is able to maintain such an extensive year-round portfolio, Jeff goes on to explain that the grower supplements the Coachella winter season by growing head lettuce in Yuma, and producing green onions, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts in Mexico. The company’s state-of-the-art facility in Coachella is used for the cooling and distribution of Mexico-grown items as well.
“Each year, we attempt to have a smooth transition,” Jeff reflects. “The goal is to orchestrate this massive operational move to ensure consistent supply of quality products for our customers. We have one of the best cooling and distribution facilities in the desert, which allows us to continuously provide that superior customer service.”
As Jeff explains this to me, I nod silently and reflect on the common notion of “being in the right place at the right time,” and realize that the right time for Ocean Mist Farms is a concept that is constantly evolving; from the 1990s, to now, and well into the future.
The timing is always right for Ocean Mist Farms. Just as I immersed myself in each of the cherished cities I was lucky enough to call home in order to discover the knowledge and perspective that guide me today, the industry titan has dug its heels into the soil of the Coachella Valley, establishing deep roots from which the Ocean Mist Farms legacy continues to grow.