McFARLAND, Calif. — Workers are putting the finishing touches on the second phase of a major expansion project at Jacov P. Dulcich & Sons Farms and its marketing arm, Sunlight International Sales Inc., both in McFarland.

Dulcich Farms’ expansion in the home stretch
                                                               Don Schrack

A construction worker marks pallet lines at one of two new cold storage rooms at McFarland, Calif.-based Jakov P. Dulcich & Sons Farms and its marketing arm, Sunlight International Sales Inc. The major construction project will increase the company’s cold storage capacity to more than one million cartons, said Nick Dulcich, co-owner and director of sales.

“We’ll be operational by the start of the 2009 table grape season,” said Nick Dulcich, co-owner and director of sales.

The season is scheduled to start about July 6 for some of the company’s contract growers. Due to unusually low temperatures in late May and most of June, harvesting of the Dulcich Farms’ table grapes is scheduled to begin about July 22, he said.

The expansion project will boost cold storage capacity to more than one million boxes, Dulcich said. The first phase of the project last year added two 100-foot-by-80 foot cold storage rooms. Two more similarly sized rooms have been added this year, for a total of nine cold storage rooms at Dulcich Farms-Sunlight International Sales.

The company was, in some respects, forced into the construction project.

“We’ve been expanding our plantings in the fields, especially autumn kings and scarlet royals,” Dulcich said. “We want to keep our fruit under our control and not go to inferior outside cold storage facilities.”

By maintaining full control of the table grapes from growing to shipping, we know they’re properly cared for, and it just works out best, he said.

The expansion also includes more than 2,000 square feet of office space and show rooms and a specially designed separate office for U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors.

“The inspectors are with us in the field, but we felt they needed a place where they could comfortably complete the necessary paperwork for both domestic and exported grapes,” Dulcich said.

Also new for the company this season is carton assembly and gluing equipment. Dulcich Farms plans to ship all table grapes in recyclable plastic cartons, Dulcich said.

“It’s been our experience that cardboard boxes suck the moisture out of the fruit,” he said.