Dec 16, 2013
Baloian Farms pursues premium pepper producer designation

Becoming a leading producer of peppers continues to be a main focus of Fresno, Calif.-based Baloian Farms.

“We fully address the pepper category,” said sales manager Jeremy Lane. “(We seek) to be a category leader in all of the staple and specialty varieties through supply and service. We also invest heavily in consumer information and surveys. As far as innovation, we are always working on R&D, whether it is varietal or special packaging.”

Introducing new packaging options is a trait carried throughout the Baloian product mix.

The company recently introduced a merchandising bin for hard squash.

Lane said the merchandising bins are just part of Baloian Farms’ strategic marketing plans to add more value to its commodity vegetables like peppers and squash by focusing on consumer purchase behavior.

Baloian Farms has been in the produce industry since 1917. The company grows, packs and distributes fresh produce throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. It has ranching partnerships in the southern, central, northern and coastal regions of California.

Charles Baloian immigrated to the United States from Armenia as a child. When the family made their way to the Fresno area, Baloian started a wholesale business. Later, his two sons, Ed and Jim Baloian, joined him. Both Ed and Jim were drafted into the military for World War II. Ed went to the European theater and Jim to the Pacific.

When they returned, they jumped right back into the family business. In 1985, Ed and his son Tim Baloian, the current president, started Baloian Packing, with a focus on farming, packing and shipping that has evolved into what is today Baloian Farms.

In November, the company marked a milestone by looking back at a fire that almost halted its vegetable production 20 years ago. Arsonists burned pallets outside and set the packinghouse on fire. Production came to an immediate halt, but Ed Baloian vowed to keep moving forward.

The work stoppage because of the fire lasted just a day. The company’s rebuilding process led to an expansion they didn’t know was in their future. Baloian Farms has more than doubled in size since the fire.

“I love it all,” the 92-year-old Ed Baloian said in a company video. “I love to watch stuff grow. Doing it is like a life. I enjoy it. Look at the quality of the plant. Well, we’re perfectionists. To me, when you pick up that soil, it’s life. It produces and that’s what we’re here to do. We produce and people have something to eat. This is my life and I enjoy it and I’m very thankful that I have (a) son that likes it and is doing it and still going on.”

“We’re proud of what we do,” Ed’s son, Tim, said in the video. “What greater thing can we do than grow and provide food to people? I would love to pass it on to my daughters, my nephews and possibly my grandchildren, also.”

Tim’s daughter, Julie Baloian-Grabe, is a sales coordinator for the company.

Lane, the sales manager, said Baloian Farms owns and operates many of its own ranches and has established joint ventures with growers throughout California and Mexico in order to provide its customer base with uninterrupted service and fresh vegetable supplies.

Located in the heart of the fertile valley between the coastal mountains and the Sierra Nevada range, the company’s growing traditions have spread to the California coast – ideal for peppers – Bakersfield, the Coachella Valley in the southern part of the state and as far as Chile, where conditions are prime for Baloian’s flat, sweet red onions.

All coolers/shipping offices/sales offices are tied into the Baloian headquarters in Fresno.

“We are all looking at the same information,” Lane said. “It helps in communication. We also have a meeting every morning around 6:45, and our remote operations Skype in. It is a sales meeting; however shipping, packing, quality control and others are all involved in the meetings. This helps ensure that we are all on the same page and striving to accomplish shared goals. It works very well.”

Baloian’s core commodities focus on peppers, particularly green, red, yellow, mini sweets and baby bells. Complementary commodities include eggplant, zucchini, flat sweet red onions and acorn/spaghetti/butternut/kabocha squash.

The company also grows a late fall, winter spring mix of romaine, red leaf, green leaf, butter leaf, spinach, cauliflower, kale, celery, bok choy and napa.

Gary Pullano

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