Uesugi Farms is going out of business

Uesugi Farms has harvested its last crops.

The large, well-known, family-owned vegetable producer with operations in California—Santa Clara, Contra Costa, San Benito and other counties—and Mexico, is selling off all of its equipment and “winding down” its operations. There will be no spring planting of its Napa cabbage, pepper, corn or squash crops.

“Due to market conditions and factors outside of its control, Uesugi Farms has made the difficult decision to wind down its operations at the conclusion of the 2018 fall harvest season,” the family said in a web posting this winter.

Pete Aiello of Hollister, general manager of Gilroy-based Uesugi Farms, declined to comment on Jan. 18. He has been general manager since 2002. His father, Joe Aiello, of Morgan Hill, bought Uesugi Farms from the original owners in 1979.

“Uesugi’s priority is to maximize the value of its assets and implement plans to work with customers, vendors, lenders, employees and others to obtain the best outcome possible for all its stakeholders,” said the web post.

The sales effort began with letters that went out to select creditors, followed by advertisements in trade journals and local newspapers, including this newspaper.

The sales flier distributed in the new year read was headlined, “Farm equipment for sale by bank, 1020 State Highway 25 Gilroy, CA.” The flier included a link to a web listing for millions of dollars in farm equipment for sale, a total of 271 items.

An advertisement published this week in this newspaper listed more than 150 pieces of farm equipment still for sale: trucks, tractors, backhoes, harvesters, trailers, trucks, cultivators, ATVs, plows, sprayers, pick belt trailers, bin trailers, water trucks, pressure coolers, conveyers, stackers and more.

San Jose-based Heritage Bank of Commerce, with offices in Morgan Hill, is conducting the massive equipment sale with the Aiellos.

“The company is in the process of reaching out to its customers and vendors to help them understand what this will mean for them and the proposed next steps,” Uesugi said in its web post.

Since 1985, the Aiellos have hosted a huge Pumpkin Park every October on Monterey Road in south Morgan Hill, featuring an internationally sanctioned pumpkin weigh-off. The park draws about 100,000 visitors each year.

The company on Wednesday, Jan. 23 announced it would continue to operate the annual festival from Sept. 28 through Halloween on Monterey Road in San Martin. “The Pumpkin Patch is going to be open this fall,” said Uesugi general manager Pete Aiello in a statement posted on the Pumpkin Park’s website.

Uesugi Farms is reported to have employed about 250 seasonal workers and a year-round staff of 50. It also had partnerships with dozens of producers. Overall, it had reported more than 5,000 acres in production.

Uesugi Farms grew over 20 varieties of fresh produce, including bell peppers, chili peppers, napa cabbage, sweet corn, strawberries, pumpkins and beans to retailers, food service distributors, wholesalers and processors across the nation and the world. Uesugi Farms was known as one of the premier growing, packing and shipping operations in the industry.

Uesugi Farms has been a leader in marketing, production and innovation in local agriculture.

The company installed a field of solar panels in 2013 near its headquarters on Highway 25, just north of the San Benito/Santa Clara County line, to save on energy costs.

Joe Aiello was honored with the 2016 Morgan Hill Leadership Excellence Award, which recognized him for providing “the vision and leadership that advance the spirit of community and charity; reflecting courage and insight; and inspiring others to lead in a like manner.”

Pete Aiello is a former county Farm Bureau president. The senior Aiello has held leadership positions in the county Farm Bureau and the Western Growers Association. He created an annual scholarship fund in memory of his son Michael, who died in a small airplane accident. Since the program began in 2008, 18 scholarships  totaling $98,000 have been awarded.

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