"Walking the Walk" in Environmental Conservation
May 03, 2013 07:03PM
● By Suzi Harkola
Native plantings at the front entrance entice butterflies at the headquarters of Global Organic Specialty Source, an 80,000 square foot warehouse at the corner of McIntosh and Clark in Sarasota, and offer a visual and sensual clue to the heart and soul of this growing organic produce distribution enterprise.
Global Organic’s President and founder is Mitch Blumenthal. The company was born a little over a decade ago at Blumenberry Farm in Sarasota, where Mitch raises sweet onions, garlic, Bulls’ Blood Beets, Watermelon Radishes, lemongrass, sugar snap peas and black eyed peas, to name just a few of his crops…all heirloom or specialty products.
Beginning in an old mobile home, then to a downtown warehouse and then to a larger facility in eastern Manatee County, the company continued to grow, increasing its personnel from 50 to 100 locally based employees just in the past six years. In July 2012, Global Organic relocated once again to a state of the art 80,000 square foot warehouse in the Meridian Distribution complex at McIntosh and Clark Road in Sarasota. Proximity to the Interstate has allowed the company to further reduce the use of fossil fuels, and the company “walks the walk” in environmental consciousness and practice.
This has not gone unnoticed by others in the eco-conscious arena. Global Organic was awarded a Sarasota County Green Company Partnership for its efforts in waste management and recycling. Besides the 100 percent use of food in the distribution center and the savings in gas by being closer to the Interstate, “green” means managing office waste. The headquarters is outfitted with automatic on-off lights, temperature maintenance, and shades and blinds that are used to warm or cool the office.
Ronni Blumenthal, Vice President of Administration, noted that there is no waste in the collection and distribution of the produce. “Any slightly marred produce is donated to All Faiths and Manatee Food Banks,” she explained, “and overstocked, ‘cosmetically challenged’ or shorter shelf life food is given away to the staff. Anything that the Quality Control department deems past prime is composted for Mitch’s farm. We sell our products to retail stores, both large and small, and to cooperatives and buying clubs that enable typical consumers of organics to buy their product in bulk in order to save on cost.”
But the company has not sacrificed safety for conservation. The facility is focused on the food safety and security, ranging from environmentally friendly sanitation protocols to limited access to food storage areas through specially keyed entry points.
Ronni is Mitch’s sister, and their father serves as Treasurer. Mitch’s youngest son, Noah, has reveled in the Blumenberry Farm gardens since he was a toddler, and is the namesake for the branded product, Noah’s Organic Garden, a custom overwrap program for stores that wish to sell pre-packaged produce.
Ronni continued, “Even among employees, there’s a sense that this is a family environment where everyone works as a team, supporting each other in good times and bad. We try hard to create a workplace that reflects the company’s and the family’s values of inclusiveness and care.”
Global Organic has purposefully limited its distribution area to the southeastern United States including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Louisiana. “Anything beyond that would be prohibitive from an environmental perspective,” she said.
Community outreach is an integral part of Global Organic’s business philosophy. Since 2006, the company has been in partnership with Easter Seals of Southwest Florida’s vocational rehabilitation program, bringing clients from the charity in to experience a typical work environment for special projects. They were named Easter Seals’ Corporate Partner in 2012. Additionally, sponsorships or gifts-in-kind for notfor- profits are offered, with preference given to local agencies serving related issues such as hunger, sustainable farming, organics, nutrition/education, and agencies supporting people with disabilities.
The company has developed strategic partnerships with growers throughout the United States, as well as South and Central America, Africa, New Zealand, Israel, and Holland. As Ronni notes, “We work hard to develop a growing circle of local and organic farmers.”
Florida farms include Bellevue Gardens in Gainesville, known for their luscious watermelons; Witt Road, Clewiston, for Romanescu cauliflower, broccoli, green beans and fennel; Bonnie Blue Ranch in the Brandon area featuring peaches and Orlando tangelos; Alderman Farms in Boynton Beach for round and Roma tomatoes, sweet mini peppers and broccoli. Miami-area Glaser Farms specializes in growing tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, lychees, bananas, avocados, rare and exotic tropicals, winter vegetables and herbs. Global Organic gets organic strawberries from Jordan Farms in Dover. Lady Moon Farms just outside Punta Gorda raises a variety of vegetables, with a special focus on tomatoes; and true organic citrus comes from Presley Groves in Frostproof.
The foundation of Global Organic’s mission is simply to support local farms through personalized service, and the development of business relationships with growers and farmers. Additionally, the company is committed to outstanding customer service, excellence in quality of the products and a superior logistics program.
Mitch explained his passion for organic farming methods eloquently yet simply: “When we choose to grow, buy, and consume organic fruits and vegetables, we are not only nourishing our bodies, but also the very soil from which we grow our food. When we choose to put living foods on our family’s plate, we are protecting their health by avoiding genetically modified foods and applied toxins from pesticides. Organic farmers commit to protecting the land, the water we drink, and the wildlife that shares our planet.”
For information on forming a Buying Club, in which groups of people buy bulk amounts of produce together; ways the company can help small farms by acting as a Grower’s Agent; or for tours and speakers available for community events, contact Global Organic Specialty Source at 941-358-6555 or Toll Free at 877-952-1198; or visit globalorganics.ws for company details.