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Non-Federal Help to Nogales Citizens


We salute the folks at Borderland Food Banks.

Your editor has had the privilege to get to know the folks who run the Nogales, Arizona branch of the Borderland Food Banks.  Everyone in the area knows Yolanda Soto.  Yolanda is director of an organization which receives contributions from the Nogales area in the form of vegetables and food items.  So, what is the object?  Answer:  Millions of tons of vegetables are shipped into the united states from mexico every year, especially through the winter months.

There are over 130 transfer companies in Nogales, Arizona which specialize in only vegetables.  When I say "specialize," that is an understatement.  I met one Spanish gentleman who sits in the corner of his living room and makes a living selling one vegetable-- Jalapenos!  Most of the companies have a short list of vegetables they buy and sell.

The companies have four to six fellows in each company who call Mexico one minute and Toronto the next.   They are fluent in Spanish and English.  They are buying vegetables from Mexican growers, then immediately, they try to sell them to all points in the USA and Canada.  The vegetables are hardly out of the fields as far south as Panama, when they are rushed north by thousands of trucks.  They are unloaded in the Nogales, Arizona warehouses and held as short a time as possible.  This is to assure that the vegies are in top condition a couple of days later as they are off-loaded in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  It is not uncommon for a load of tomatoes to be sold to a super-market in Toronto while the tomatoes are being picked in Hermasillo, Mexico.

The thing runs in a sort of organized panic, and the guys on the phones work long hours.  The truckers are under pressure to deliver in minimum time, and some truckers find that a couple too many coffee stops in Kansas will get them black listed from hauling vegies.  It is hard to understate the tender loving care a Mexican tomato receives from a hundred panic stricken people along the way.

Things do go wrong though.  One thing that is a problem is when a buyer changes his mind in Quebec.  Now, the Nogales company has a truck load of Roma tomatoes in the warehouse slowly ripening.  They panic.  The guys in the warehouse dump crushed ice on the tomatoes, while the guys on the phones try to find a buyer fast.  They try to be cool and sound like they are not in a panic, but the buyers know the ropes too.  In the end, the produce shipping company may end up with ten or fifteen pallets of tomatoes which, to you and me, look like great tomatoes, but those tomatoes would be garbage by the time they tried to haul them to Toronto.  What to do?

The more cynical managers haul the tomatoes to the city dump.  The decent folks in those companies realize that the tomatoes are just right for their friends and neighbors in Nogales, and they call Yolanda Soto at Borderland Food Banks.  "Hey, Yolanda, do you want ten pallets of Romas?"  Yolanda sure does, and she sends her bob-tailed truck over to get them.

And do you want to know the best part?  There wasn't one Federal employee or dollar involved.  This is one of those rare cases of local people helping local people.  No one gets famous, BUT the folks in Nogales can go down to Borderland every day and pick up some of the best vegies in the USA.  No one has to prove they are worthy by signing statements that they are beggars.  If you don't mind rubbing elbows with folks who are not proud, then you can drive your BMW right down to Borderland tomorrow morning and pick up the goodies.

Now, Yolanda and Borderland, Nogales, are part of a larger group of such agencies around the southwest.  There is the group in Phoenix, Tucson, Willcox, Arizona, and the group in Yuma, California.  When there is an abundance in one place, the truck runs to one of the others and a load is shared.  Kiwis by the ton rolled into Nogales from Yuma.  Cabbages and onions come from Willcox, and Yolanda may get an occasional favor from even farther away.  Yolanda is a better giver than receiver.  She has sent vegies to Washington, Oregon, California, El Paso, and Florida.  Fancy a load of tomatoes being sent from Nogales to Florida :-)

Also, recently, the group has taken on an office manager named Jim McDaniel.  Jim keeps records, and he is the one who gives us the list of donors every year.  Yolanda also has a group of volunteers who help give out the produce to visitors, and they keep the warehouse clean and up to health code.  The warehouse was rated 98% by the health department in 1997.  The team is small, but they do a great job.  The vegetable holding area is always neat and clean, and the volunteer help are just as good to us Gringoes as to the Hispanic folks who come in.  This is just the sort of down home help that is most needed in the USA.  Any Federal agency spy who tries to go in there and take charge ought to be pitched in the arroyo!

Best wishes to Juan, Yolanda's former assistant, as he has gone on to direct shipping operations at one of the produce companies in Nogales.

We thought that it would be in order to recognize those people who really make this thing work-- The vegetable transfer companies.  We have included below all those companies which donated in some quantity over the past year.  

 R B PACKING, INC was the biggest contributor in 1997 giving 2,363,926 pounds of produce to Borderland.  Hey folks, that's a lot of vegies for the stew pot.  The other contributors are listed below in order of greatest giving.


CHAMBERLAIN DISTRIBUTING                                       C T PRODUCE

GIUMARRA                                                                             SAN RAFAEL DISTRIBUTORS

JAMES K. WILSON PRODUCE                                            PRODUCE KOUNTRY, INC

 JESSE PRODUCE                                                                   CONTINENTAL TOMATO PACKERS

SU CASA PRODUCE, INC                                                      SUNFED

MEYER TOMATOES                                                              MALENA PRODUCE, INC

NEW HARVEST ORG                                                             DEL CAMPO PRODUCE

C.A.B. PRODUCE                                                                    TA-DE DISTRIBUTING CO.

CB DISTRIBUTORS                                                               CARLO CAPELLI

BIBLIO QUALITY PRODUCE INC                                       MANGOS LIBRA, INC

BURNAND AND CO                                                              PREMIUM PRODUCE DIST. INC.

SUPERIOR MEXICAN PRODUCE                                       TRI-CAR SALES

ALL TRADING DISTRIBUTING                                         APPALACHIAN PRODUCE  !!!!! In Nogales !!!!!

PRODUCE EXCHANGE, INC                                               JOVA DISTRIBUTORS

CRISP P                                                                                  CASH PRODUCE

J C's SUNNY WINTER, INC                                                 EBIA-PROXORA

DEL MONTE FRESH PRODUCE                                        JUICE PRODUCE

CALIFORNIA TOMATO PACKERS                                 GATO INC (The Cat)


KARINA PRODUCE                                                             KING PLUS


MISSION FRUIT AND VEGETABLES                              DIAZTECA  CO

E C O  FRECH                                                                      THOMAS PRODUCE

PIERRE ALLARD                                                                 PACIFIC GARDENS

MANDEL MIZOKAM                                                         NATURAL VALLEY FARMS


SAFEWAY AGRICOLA                                                      Z & S DISTRIBUTING CO.

KALIROY PRODUCE                                                         PALO VERDE FARMS


GREEN STRIPE                                                                   VANDERVOET AND ASSOCIATES

CHILL FRESH INC                                                             PONY SALES

DAMON DISTRIBUTORS                                                 FRANCISCO DIST. CO/ LIBRA

DIAMOND DISTRIBUTORS                                            JOSE CARILLO

SAUL GONZALES                                                             ENGEBRETSON-GRUPE CO.

SUNNY VALLEY                                                              CACTUS MELON DIST.

AGRICOLA NATURAL                                                    SANDIA DISTRIBUTORS, INC

VETERAN'S MARKET                                                     A-M  PRODUCE

CARLSBAD PRODUCE                                                   GERALD VILLALOBOS

OMEGA  PRODUCE                                                         MADE IN NATURE

APIO   (CELERY DIST)                                                    BATCO

SUN WORLD                                                                    H R  TRADING

D'  AMIGO                                                                        PANDOL BROTHERS


SAFEWAY GROCERY STORES--  They send day-old bread very faithfully.

If you have a vegetable distributing and transfer company, and you did not find your name above, there is a good way to get it there--  Send Yolanda Soto a load of vegetables over at Borderland.  One request--  Make sure the vegies you send are good enough to put on your own table tonight.  It is YOUR friends and neighbors, maybe even your aunt, who will be picking up these vegetables later.

 Roses and salutes to the folks at Borderland and these companies who make Borderland work.


Borderland Food Bank

1186 North Hohokam Drive

Nogales, Arizona  85621

Phone:  (520) 287-2627

Fax:  (520) 287-0121