OTAY MESA, San Diego — A simple choice you make in your produce aisle could help families in need in Mexico. In this Zevely Zone, I went to Otay Mesa where the fruits of family's labor are helping charity.
"My dad was the first to market organic bananas in the United States," said Mayra Velazquez de Leon. In 1974, her father Carlos Cortez brought organic bananas to the U.S. It's a family tradition that continues with his daughter and granddaughter. "She is the one with the ideas she is very creative I am very good at execution," said Daniella Velazquez de Leon who is Mayra's daughter.
Mayra opened Organics Unlimited twenty years ago hoping that the apple wouldn't fall far from the banana tree. "It took her awhile after staying away for her after working for someone else for seven years," said Mayra. Armed with a degree in finance and marketing, Daniella joined the four generation banana business. "I tried to stay away for awhile I tried to follow my own path after a while my mom would ask me to joining her at trade shows and I just love how passionate people are about organic in the organic industry, so I could not stay away," said Daniella.
At Organics Unlimited, they believe that the healthiest and most sustainable tropical fruits are grown organically. With a primary focus on bananas, they are growers first, importing top quality fruit from their farms and from other farms they supervise.
With strong Mexican roots that date back hundreds of years, the family feels that if their bananas are grown south of the border then some of the profits should stay there. "You feel so much pride when you see a kid who could have not even gone to high school become a doctor or an accountant," said Mayra.
Organics Unlimited has program called Grow which stands for Giving Resources and Opportunities to Workers in hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty. The GROW program started in 2005. The family gives away 60 cents from every box of bananas. Add it all up and they've given away almost two million dollars. That money helps fund scholarships, dental and vision clinics and much more.
The bananas are pesticide free. The family says you can not only taste the difference but make a difference by buying GROW bananas at your grocery store. "They should look for orange label it's out GROW label that means sixty cents of every box is going to the fund," said Daniella.
So go bananas with the San Diego family that loves people and their product. "If you see my freezer at my house it's just filled with bananas that's the only thing that fits in there," said Daniella. Her mother Mayra added, "I love bananas."
Her father, Carlos Cortez, the patriarch of the banana business, will soon celebrate his 95th birthday. For more information on Organics Unlimited go organicsunlimited.com.