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The only spinach grower in Colorado
The North American spinach market has been dominated in recent years by the surge in popularity of baby leaf spinach. The ubiquitous salad and smoothie ingredient has been popularized by growers, especially in California. Another type of spinach, the more mature variety suitable for cooking, continues to be cultivated, but not by many growers anymore. Once fairly widespread across the nation, there are comparatively few growers left. In Colorado, there is only one.
"We are the only spinach growers left in the region," said Brian Mizokami of Daystar Produce. "Our spinach product is the Savoy spinach, not the baby one. It's the larger, darker, crinkly leaf variety that is most suited for cooking. We cater mostly to the eastern market as California and the West Coast has now been dominated by baby leaf spinach. The eastern half of the country, and also eastern Canada, has always been our largest market. Texas was also a very big part of our business but we lost a lot of the market to baby leaf spinach."
Despite the dwindling number of growers of Savoy spinach, Mizokami points out that the market is stable and that demand is also unchanged. "Our market is very stable," he said. "We only send to re-packers for the fresh market in 20lb and 22lb bulk crates. Once there, they are processed and packed into bags to be shipped to receivers. We maintain a steady stream of demand for our spinach."
Season just starting in Colorado
For Daystar Produce, the Colorado spinach season is just commencing after a two-month spring season in New Jersey. The Colorado season will continue to the middle of October, before transitioning back south to Texas over the winter. Daystar are able to produce spinach during the summer thanks to the unique climatic conditions present in their Colorado growing region.
"We are located in the San Luis Valley at an elevation of 8000 ft," Mizokami explained. "We are just starting to ship out this week for the summer season. Due to the high elevation, night temperatures remain cool and daytime temperatures seldom go above 85 degrees. This location has a semi-arid climate and is hemmed in by two mountain ranges on either side. Currently, we have enjoyed favorable weather for the start of the season and supplies and quality are looking good."
Larry Dockal and Walter (Bubba) Moerbe of Daystar Produce
Passing on to a younger generation
Savoy spinach growers are confident that the product remains a valuable addition to the broader spinach market. Mizokami's father began growing spinach in Colorado back in the 50s, mainly serving the Denver and Texas markets at the time. It was only when a hurricane devastated the East Coast spinach industry that a buyer asked for Colorado spinach to be shipped over to the East Coast, which he was able to. This was the deal that started the broader Colorado spinach market, and Mizokami has continued in that vein. But now the time has come to pass on to a younger generation, and he is guiding the new company as they take over the business.
"Our family has been in the spinach business for more than 60 years, in Colorado, Texas and Arizona," he shared. "In 1986, I started my own company called Pentagon Produce, along with a partner. But now it's time for a new generation and we have sold our shipping business to Daystar Produce. These guys are in their 30s and I am happy to guide them over the summer as they continue the spinach growing business in Colorado and perhaps even expand it once again. The future is looking bright."
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Tel: +1 (602) 625-6816
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