California Tomato Farmers announced that it has hired AG Association Management Services Inc. (AAMSI) and has appointed Chris Zanobini to serve as CTF president and Nick Matteis will be the new director of food safety. “This new team will help CTF continue to move its food safety programs forward and will help us evolve and improve our organization further,” says Dean Janssen, of Ace Tomato Co., Inc. and Chairman of CTF. “As we start the 2012 season, we have all of our administrative and food safety systems in place and look forward to a successful summer.”

California Tomato Farmers is a cooperative established in 2007 by farmers who have a shared commitment to food safety and enhanced quality. CTF members are all multi-generation farming families that have strong ties to their land and in the communities where they farm. Members represent 80 percent of the volume of fresh tomatoes produced in California. Members include: Ace Tomato Co., Inc., The DiMare Company, Gargiulo, Inc., Live Oak Farms, Pacific Triple E, and San Joaquin Tomato Growers, Inc.

AAMSI, based in Sacramento, Calif., and led by Zanobini has extensive experience managing commodity boards and trade associations and has been involved in California agriculture for over 25 years. Zanobini will be responsible for overseeing and administering all CTF programs and staff and Matteis will be managing and directing the food safety program. The Board, representing all CTF members, will continue to set the strategic direction for the organization. Zanobini and the team at AAMSI took over the management and operations of CTF after the former CEO left for another position in the produce industry.

CTF was a leader in establishing a comprehensive set of stringent food safety standards for field grown tomatoes that was published by United Fresh Produce Association and titled, “Food Safety and Auditing Protocol for the Fresh Tomato Supply Chain.” This is the first and only harmonized audit for the fresh tomato industry. Compliance with these standards is mandatory for CTF members and is verified through regular, random and unannounced audits conducted by United States Department of Agriculture Inspectors.

In 2011, CTF became the first in the produce industry to launch a new database that allows tomato buyers to view for themselves the food safety compliance and audit results of CTF members. This database not only shows compliance levels but also when corrective actions are needed and completed. Through this database, CTF members are fully disclosing to buyers how they are performing on audits. This level of transparency is unprecedented in the tomato industry.

The California fresh tomato season began in late May with all CTF members’ acreage producing fresh tomatoes by June 25. The season will continue into October.

“CTF has been a food safety leader and innovator since its inception,” Zanobini says. “Our goal is to successfully implement the members’ existing food safety programs and help them move their vision for this organization forward.”