Catalino “Tito” Martinez, Valpredo Farms & Country Sweet Produce
Rooted in family partnerships
What began as a farming operation run by the Valpredo family is now a blossoming partnership between the Valpredo family and the Martinez family. In 1985 Donald Valpredo went on his own and asked Tito’s brother, Enrique Martinez, to follow him into a new path. What started as primarily a cotton business now has evolved into a combined conventional and organic 3,000 acre operation in Kern County consisting of Valpredo Farms, Val-Mar Farms and Country Sweet Produce. They grow over 20 conventional and organic crops year-round.
At that time, Tito Martinez, now a Member and Chief Operating Officer at Val-Mar, was a teenager working on the farm. He left for a couple of years to attend a technical school, but was asked to return in 1990. With Mr. Valpredo’s forward thinking of equity participation, in 2003 he included Tito to be a minority partner in the multi-family operation.
“Mr. Valpredo gave my brother and I an incredible opportunity to be partners in the operation,” Tito says of the decision to form the partnership back in 1985 with his brother Enrique. “We put in a lot of sweat equity in the beginning, and now we are starting to see the benefits of that hard work.”
As part of their evolution they wanted to be vertically integrated and the opportunity presented itself when Mr. Valpredo’ s son Michael Valpredo came back to California after being in Ohio for many years. Michael, as their President of Country Sweet Produce, has taken the seasonal packing facility to a year round packing and sales operation. Their label is BAKO SWEET.
On the conventional side they grow sweet potatoes, onions, sweet onions, carrots, tomatoes, processing tomatoes, bell peppers, watermelons, and almonds. Organically they grow sweet potatoes, onions, sweet onions, cabbage, heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, watermelons, mini-melons, cantaloupes and cauliflower. Most of the items are packed and sold by Country Sweet Produce.
Year-round quest for water efficiency
At Valpredo Farms and Country Sweet Produce if it’s not being planted, it’s being harvested. Martinez explains that in California you have to work around the clock to stay competitive. And one of the main reasons they are able to do this is because of a commitment to investing in and using water-efficient practices.
“There is a higher standard in California,” Martinez says.
Over the past decade, Valpredo Farms has invested in a number of new technologies to improve how they irrigate crops. They are monitoring, testing soil samples, participating in PGE pilot programs to reduce energy. Years ago they installed low-flow sprinkler heads and buried drip irrigation, and recycle as much irrigation run-off as possible before it percolates back into groundwater aquifers. They have also invested recently in GPS-driven tillage tractors to be as fuel efficient as possible.
“Whatever it is to save some money, become more efficient and sustainable, we’ll do it,” Martinez says. Tito’s brother, Enrique, has learned some cultural practices from the organic side and brought some of those practices over to the conventional side, which has resulted in better soil management, which helps with long-term water-efficiency.
Pride in Being a California Farmer
Martinez says what he’s most proud of is that he and his partners have been able to grow and sustain their business over the last few decades to keep their employees working year-round. And there’s a renewed focus, now with the introduction of the Country Sweet Produce brand, to tell their story – the multi-family and multi-generational legacy – and how they are able to grow year-round produce vegetables, fruits, and nuts for all Californians to enjoy.