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Val Verde anxious to turn page on pandemic year

McALLEN, TX — Frank Schuster has worked in the produce industry for his entire career, but he has never seen a year quite like 2020.

 

“I would say the last 18 months have been a series of ‘who’d of thoughts?’,” said the president of Val Verde Vegetable Co., here.

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Martha Arellano

He said the run of bad luck started with the pandemic, which basically shut down the foodservice industry, and with that demand dried up for Val Verde’s large-size onions. Then last July Hurricane Hanna swept in from the Gulf of Mexico and interrupted his early-season plantings. And then came a late freeze in February, which caused extended widespread power outages throughout the valley.

“I’ve seen bad freezes in 1983 and 1989, but this one was different,” said Schuster. “It was cold for an extended period of time, and it came so late for this area. It just goes to show that anything can happen in this business and you need to be prepared.”

Thankfully, things are looking up, said the veteran grower, a native of the Rio Grande Valley.

“Our broccoli and cauliflower programs were cut off this year by Mother Nature,” said Schuster. “The hurricane messed up the front end of the deal and the freeze messed up the back end of the deal, but we’re expecting to be back stronger than ever, and we’re already seeing foodservice coming back.”

Adding to his optimism is the fact that veteran procurement specialist Martha Arellano was set to rejoin the Val Verde team after spending time outside of the industry.

“We’re extremely excited to welcome Martha back to the team,” said Schuster. “She worked with us for a dozen years or so in our Mexican procurement department, and then went to work at a couple of other produce companies before leaving the industry. I found out that she was available again because I received a call from a school district for a reference for a teaching job she was applying for. I called her and asked if she was interested in coming back to Val Verde, and she immediately said yes. She’ll be working with our new growers and also in business development.”

Schuster said Val Verde will start planting again in July, and the company already has leeks growing in the greenhouse.

“We’ll start harvesting again in October,” he said, “and we’re hoping for smooth sailing from here on out.”

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