Touring the Vitalis Trial Beds

A great deal of mud and an unexpected amount of rain didn't dampen the spirits of those who attended Enza Zaden Research Center's lunch on September 25.The soles of our shoes were heavily layered in mud as we toured the trial beds in the much welcomed rain. My tour group included group leader Erica Renaud, North America Business Development Manager of Vitalis Organic Seeds Seeds (the organic division of Enza Zaden); Paula Linton, Sales Executive of GreenLeaf; and Laura Batcha, CEO and ED of Organic Trade Association.

Touring the beds, we learned about the challenges of meeting consumer and industry demands. We discussed developing an organic basil that has a resistance to downy mildew and Fusarium, but has all the desired flavors consumers and chefs look for. Renaud also explained that depending on geographic location, consumers have specific ideas of what summer squash should look like – no place is quite the same. In Mexico summer squash looks almost black in color and in Italy they are speckled gray.

Many producers attend this event to see the varieties of crops in various growth stages to help determine what they should trial on their own farms, always keeping buyer expectations in mind. What buyers are looking for (flavor, shelf life, color, exceptional quality, etc.) plus the farmers’ needs (disease and pest tolerance/resistance, growth patterns, yield), help guide Vitalis Organic Seeds to develop and improve upon their seed products.

Paul Mastronardi, CEO of Mastronardi Produce, Inc. was the keynote speaker. He shared how his partnership with Enza Zaden was crucial to his company’s success; through the partnership they’ve created an exclusive product and built strong relationships with grocery-buying decision makers.