(July 14) CASTROVILLE, Calif. — The latest 30,000-square-foot addition to Ocean Mist Farms facility was up and producing tray packs of artichokes and shrink-wrapped broccoli by the second week of July.

Ocean Mist began constructing the addition last fall and installed the packing equipment in the 36-degree packing room the first week of July.

“We wanted to increase the quality of our products by packing in refrigeration,” said Maggie Bezart, vice president of marketing and sales. “And we left ourselves expansion room for new items.”

The packing room features a mezzanine from which cartons are slid down to the packing lines. That provides added space on the floor and better flow-through in the room as well as keeping the packing materials off the ground.

In addition, the addition features strict adherence to food safety techniques. For example, those who enter it must walk through a cleanser and wash their hands before donning hair and beard nets, hard hats and smocks.

The packing room also has forklifts that don't leave the room. That way they can pick up pallets of product at the product entrance, and forklifts from other parts of the building don't enter the packing room.

“This room is certified as a wash down room,” Bezart said. “It's important to have a room of this quality.”

The packing room is 25,000 square feet. The other 5,000 square feet of the addition include a warehouse with two forced-air cooling rooms. That brings to 10 the number of forced-air rooms Ocean Mist has at its Castroville facility.

The cool rooms can handle products such as broccoli and cauliflower.