Our farm began in 1903 when my grandfather, Callie D'Ottavio, cleared 40 acres of land with horses and dynamite to raise sweet potatoes and broccoli. In 1934, my grandfather purchased his first two-ton truck to deliver his produce to the Philadelphia Market. He then retired his horse and bought his first tractor in 1941. In 1953, my father, Ronald D'Ottavio, and his brother Art took over the farm. They decided to diversify their crops and started to grow cabbage, romaine, endive, escarole, lettuce, herbs, collards, kale, squashes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, and many other vegetables. At that time they were farming approximately 100 acres of land and their only irrigation was a stream that ran through the farm so, in 1967 they drilled their first well that could pump 2,500 gallons of water per minute.
In 1979 my Uncle Art retired and sold his share of the farm to my father. He knew my brother Leon and I would want to farm full time so he increased the land by 200 acres. My mother then took the selling of our vegetables to the Vineland Produce Auction. For the next several years my brother and I farmed alongside my parents producing 2,500 to 4,000 packages a day.
In 1992, I decided I wanted to open my own produce company.
M. D'Ottavio Produce, Inc., to help expand our selling area. I turned to the The Red Book and began calling wholesalers and chain stores up and down the east coast setting up meetings. On my travels I saw approximately 25 customers and 3 of them gave me a chance. I was hoping that with my farming knowledge the customers would feel confident in doing business with a 22 year old. Over the years the company worked very hard to meet and exceed their needs. Those 3 customers blossomed into 40 chain stores and wholesale accounts.
Over the past two decades, we have expanded our business to 125,000 square feet of enclosed platform space and overhead doors to accommodate 22 trucks. We have 3 coolers that can hold up to 50,000 packages. We have our own fleet of trucks and a very reliable group of owner-operators. I believe our history and knowledge is what gave us our advantage to make our business what it is today.
In 2013 we expanded our family farm by planting blueberries with a goal of 150 acres in the next 5 years. On our farm, we will have organic and conventional blueberries. In 2014 we partnered with Oakes Farms in Immokalee Florida. We raise over 37 items on 1,200 acres.
Our goal as a family business is to continue to grow and expand for future generations to come.