Start Strong, End Strong

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Have you ever wondered how vegetables from grocery stores are really produced? If you think they are just grown in fields from start until the end, you are in for a surprise!

Fruit and produce destined to be sold in local markets here in the valley actually start of in Speedling in Alamo. Speedling is one of the world’s largest producers of containerized transplants. What exactly is a containerized transplant?

Seeds are planted in trays. Their germination process is closely monitored and their ideal growth condition is created by controlling the amount of light, water, fertilizer and temperature. Farmers provide the specifications they want for their vegetable transplants, and after 30-45 days, the small plants are ready to be taken onto the fields. The small transplants, have been cultivated to be strong and withstand environmental challenges.

Engineer and Grower Manager at Speedling, Abraham Cavazos, says the growing process is very detailed and requires constant monitoring. There are many challenges in producing strong transplants year round especially because of the high temperature reached in the valley.

Every vegetable has a set optimal growth environment. Cavazos’ job is to replicate the conditions and manually control factors. Humidity, water, light and temperature are controlled in a germinating room. Once the seeds sprout, they are moved to large greenhouses where fertilizers, fungicides and insecticides are applied to prepare the small plants for external challenges.

“Challenges come all year round because of the high temperatures in the valley from July to October and low temperatures in December and January,” Cavazos said.

During summers, greenhouses can reach an average temperature of 110 degrees. This is beyond the optimal temperature for most vegetable plants and shade cloths must be added to greenhouses along with cooling systems. In the winter, Cavazos and his team must be ready for sudden drops in temperature and ensure heaters are turned on in case of low cool temperatures. Plants are more prone to disease in the winter as they are likely to remain humid for longer periods of time.

Having seeds sprout and monitored at Speedling is a way for farmers to ensure they will have a good harvest. If they start off strong, they can produce quality vegetables to provide to valley residents.

“This is a way for farmers to avoid uncontrollable conditions in the field in order to have a good seed germination,” Cavazos said.

Speedling has been operating for over 4o years with 8 facilities across the United States. The Alamo facility serves farmers in Mexico, the state of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.

Production at Speedling includes a full line of vegetable transplants ranging from onions, hot and sweet peppers, cabbage, watermelon, cantaloupes, tomatoes, broccoli, squash, eggplant, and collards.

Aside from vegetables, Speedling also grows the Poinsettias that are sold at Costco in Pharr.

Poinsettia cuttings come from El Salvador, rooted in Georgia’s Speedling facility, and finally sent to Alamo in July. Greenhouses become a complete eye soother when they are replete with red color during the holidays.

“We take pride in delivering maximum value to our customers while providing consistent quality,” Cavazos said.

If a seed is allowed to sprout under optimal conditions and  the small plant is set to thrive in the fields, then valley residents are likely to get more juice out of their produce!