Magic Sun's Anthony Otto Discusses Organic Tomato Expansion
- by Anne Allen
RICHMOND, VA - I dare you to come up with a better experience than biting into a perfectly ripe, greenhouse tomato. Struggling to come up with an alternative, aren’t you? I spoke to fellow tomato-aficionado, Anthony Otto, Sales Manager of Magic Sun Tomatoes, to learn more about the company’s programs, varieties, and more.
“We currently harvest organic beefsteak and organic TOVs, and we will begin harvesting organic grape tomatoes in June,” Anthony began. “We have four different USDA organic-certified greenhouses, all in Central Mexico. Two are in Zacatecas, and we have one in Jalisco and one in Querétaro. We are growing conventional TOVs, Beefsteak, and Cocktail tomatoes right now, and we'll start up grape tomatoes this fall.”
I asked Tony why Magic Sun decided to expand the organic program, and he explains that the decision was one borne out of a commitment to bringing the best tomatoes possible to market.
“We grow in greenhouses where we control every element of the temperature, atmosphere, and nutrition,” he explained. “Obviously the organic products require constant vigilance in order to maintain great quality, and over the last few years, I think we've made a lot of progress in improving the duration, quality, and yield of the organic plants. This is one of the reasons why we are starting up the organic grape tomatoes. We feel very confident in our core competencies, and we are excited about expanding!”
After seeing a strong market in December and January, Tony told me that coming into February, additional round tomatoes from Mexico have hit the market, which caused a slight dip. This is a very seasonal pattern, he assured me, and one that doesn’t affect the company’s commitment to being a year-round grower.
“When it comes down to it, we are the farm, and we diligently control the quality and freshness of our tomatoes, starting with the seeds in our nursery. It's a big responsibility,” he said. “We're proud of the work we do, and I think the quality of our tomatoes speaks for itself. Our high elevation locations allow for strong levels of sunlight, but also cool temperatures at night, which present the best conditions for the development of sugars in the tomatoes. Our locations, coupled with the greenhouse technology, have enabled us to grow tomatoes year-round.”
Not only does it show this kind of commitment to its customers, Magic Sun maintains that dedication in retaining loyal employees, reducing its environmental footprint, and becoming a socially-responsible company.
“A couple tools we use to continue pushing those initiatives forward are the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit (SMETA) and GAP Risk Assessment for Social Practices (GRASP),” Tony shared with me. "And finally, we have a huge advantage because of The Koppert Rapel Research and Training Center (CEICKOR). CEICKOR is one of our farms, but also a university and R&D center and the leading protected horticulture program in Mexico. CEICKOR University has full-time students working towards an engineering degree in greenhouse management. CEICKOR is not just a great source of R&D for Magic Sun; we are also training the next generation of greenhouse leadership in Mexico and internationally.”
As Magic Sun continues to increase its acreage and expands its portfolio, it's proving that it's a company to watch.