The Founding Members of GEM-Pack have over 130 collective seasons of California strawberry growing expertise. They recognize that the success of the farmer is tied to the proficiency of the harvest, shipping and marketing…but the success of the farmer comes first. For without a predictably good harvest, true success is unattainable. GEM-Pack growers are careful stewards of their farmlands who embrace sustainable practices with every aspect of their cultivation. They focus on consistent quality, flavor and the capacity to meet the demands of their national and international customers. They believe in the next generation who will carry on this wonderful family farm tradition.
GEM Pack growers are devoted to the sustainable stewardship of their farms and to the quality of the strawberries they produce, season after season. They have embraced organic and conservation principles throughout their operations: Seeking to enhance soil health and fertility through biological amendments of compost, microbial inoculants and cover crop rotation; Pest control using biological predators and habitat creation for beneficial insects, such as wasps, predacious spiders and ladybugs; Water use efficiency through precision drip irrigation monitoring systems and practices; Fertilization strategies driven by real-time soil, water and tissue sampling; Carbon footprint and energy efficiency practices focus on electrification, upgraded emission certified diesel engines in booster pumps, tractor and truck fleets; Waste reduction management, including partnerships with regional food banks and recyclers; Food safety and quality control regimes are certified under third-party auditor entities Global Gap and CCOF
Farming is not a simple or easy calling, and strawberries can be one of the most challenging crops to grow. Each of our three founding families has centuries of ancestors skilled in the practices of cultivating plants and raising animals…two in different regions of Japan, and one in the French Basque countryside. All three came to the United States eager to seek their fortunes. Independently, they each established home farms in Southern California and built agricultural businesses that flourished.
The Kawamura and Fujishige families initially aligned their mutually strong produce companies in 1959 to create a better platform for marketing and selling strawberries outside of Southern California. The Western Chief label became the standard bearer for Orange County strawberries shipped across the country and around the world. In 1990, a young member of the successful Etchandy family joined the Western Chief team of growers and the Western Marketing Company of California continued its leading role as a regional strawberry marketer.
In 1994, the Western Marketing Company of California became Orange County Produce LLC and continued to distribute their “local branded” OC strawberries throughout the world. From their regional Southern California platform, they continued to dominate in the early spring marketplace. The rising popularity of healthy food choices created a great push forward in strawberry consumption and the significant growth of the national and international strawberry industry began to create a new dimension of demand. Strawberries, along with other select fruits and vegetables became the focus of year-round demand from retailers in every region. The evolution of the regional family farm business had reached another fork in the road.
At a time when many regional grower-shippers and local family farms were closing, the three families decided instead to embrace a larger presence in the statewide strawberry industry. Over the next two decades, OC Produce gradually expanded in both acreage and scope of sales. The consolidation trends in the chain store industry and the growth of large hyper-retailers created new dynamics and…opportunities.
In 2015, our three families formed GEM Pack Berries LLC, combining our collective strengths and vision for a new generation of year-round strawberry breeding, production, shipping, and sales. We have built upon our long time and valued relationships within the global industry and have pulled together an “all-star” team of strawberry experts from around the world. As GEM Pack continues to expand its year-round production, the focus on quality and marketplace performance is our core commitment. To achieve that, the newest addition, California Strawberry Cultivars, (CBC, LLC) is a breeding company that has partnered with world renown strawberry breeders and nurseries and is now poised to deliver its first set of patented “gems”. New strawberry varieties are not only exciting but continue the tradition of our commitment to excellence and improvement.
Although you might not be familiar with the descriptive name and label of GEM-Pack Berries, the Founding Families are well-known produce industry pioneers. Their commitment to fresh produce excellence has propelled them through over 70 years of dependable marketplace presence and continuous, uninterrupted sales relationships that span 3 generations. We believe that our growers, retailers, and consumers (from farm to table) are partners in a valuable bond of trust…so that when you see and enjoy the ‘gem-like’ perfection of our strawberries and other products, you are participating in a long tradition of reliable and joy-giving sustenance!
We are a grower-focused, family-proud organization that holds quality, sustainability and consistency of deliverability as our key priorities. We believe that our employees are our greatest assets, and realize that all our team members are farm professionals who depend on and support each other, season after season.
After more than 70 seasons, GEM Pack Berries is now growing and shipping strawberries year-round and following a long and flourishing tradition of taking care of family, friends, and community.
When you bite into one of our juicy, delicious strawberries you become part of our extended circle of family and friends. Thank you for being part of our success story.