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- “We’re not trying to compete with the huge companies growing gassed green tomatoes,” he says. “We grow vine ripes. That’s what sets us apart from the others, and this market is growing very fast.”
Started early in life
Torres got busy making an income earlyin life. He talks the subtleties of marketing like a university ag economics graduate, although he never attended high school. At age 15, he went to work in the Atlanta farmers market selling Florida tomatoes, and that served as a graduate school of sorts.
“I learned what customers wanted,” he says. “That’s the important thing — to sell them what they want, not try to force them to buy something they really don’t want.”
As a result, his tomato standards are high.
“Taste is the important thing, so I try for quality tomatoes. It’s important to hit a 7 on Brix. An 8.5 is better, but I can’t guarantee that. A lot of varieties are only 5, so if you’re growing one of those varieties, you’re not going to get the taste consumers want.
“I like Brix as a way to judge tomatoes. A lot of growers are used to letting the packinghouse do the selling for them. Since I grew up with tomatoes here in Florida and selling them in the Atlanta market, I knew both sides. So, I do both — I grow them and market them. It’s something I’m proud of.”
His vision for the company doesn’t encompass huge growth, even though acreage is doubling for the 2013 crop.
“I like being a smaller grower so I can control quality,” Torres says. “I’m a specialty grower —I’m not growing what all the other guys grow. I don’t want to be a commodity grower. We can’t compete with the big growers; for them, it’s all about the tonnage they produce.
“This may be a so-called niche market, but it’s becoming a good one.”