Produce cross-docking allows year-round access to berries in Yuma

Produce trade with Mexico and California continues to strengthen Arizona year after year, contributing to a robust workforce and thriving economy. That wouldn’t be possible without great relationships and all-around teamwork with U.S.-based and Mexican farms. That’s why last November’s announcement that Arizona and Giant Berry Farms in the Golden State were collaborating on cross-docking for winter produce was a pretty big deal.

Cross-docking is the unloading of produce from one truck to another without having to store the materials for a period of time. This cuts out the middleman and also cuts down on time the produce is away from vegetable and fruit packers. It’s an efficiency measure that gets the product to the consumer faster, saving literally loads of time and money.

California Giant Berry Farms, which packages strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, beefed up its relationship with its growers in Mexico, achieving the goal of being able to provide berries year-round. Then in November, the company announced its newly implemented winter cross-docking collaboration with Mann Packing, a Salinas, California-based produce company. The collaboration, while manufactured in California, made landfall on the Arizona side of the border where Mann has a packing and distribution center.

“The duration of the Yuma season typically runs from late November through mid-March – during this timeframe we can approximate cross-docking 15,000-20,000 cartons of fruit per week, resulting in a much more efficient consolidation process,” Tom Smith, director of foodservice for Giant, said in a previous statement. “Customers can reduce the number of stops on their trucks, therefore reducing time on the road and adding shelf life to the berries when they arrive to the consumer.”

According to a previous study out of the University of Arizona, agriculture accounted for $2.5 billion a year into the Yuma economy. Sufficient labor, rich soil and farmers utilizing the latest technologies in farming are all responsible for this positive injection into the economy. Lettuce is the largest winter crop in Yuma. Now with the new cross-docking feature for berries, the economy doesn’t have to rely as heavily on lettuce.

Nick Esquer

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