The Oppenheimer Group has set the sustainability bar high, and 2013 will be no exception, said Aaron Quon, greenhouse and vegetable category director for the Vancouver, British Columbia-based company.

Sustainability gains at Oppy grower partners OriginO and Divemex are particularly impressive, Quon said.

“The sustainable story at OriginO continues to set our grower apart from other organic greenhouse producers,” he said. “With compost comprised of leaves, stems and fruit prunings as the key ingredient of the soil, new plants grow in soil created by plants that have died away.”

OriginO’s fertilizer also plays a sustainable role, Quon said.

Made from all-natural, organic, raw materials, the fertilizer is water-soluble at the perfect nutrient level, which guarantees better plant growth and produces better tasting tomatoes and cucumbers, he said.

Divemex, meanwhile, recently achieved Fair Trade certification for its greenhouse pepper facility in Etzatlan, Mexico.

That adds 167 certified acres to the 180 acres certified in the company’s Culiacan facility in early 2011, he said.

“As a result, Divemex and Oppy can offer conventionally grown red, yellow and orange Fair Trade peppers all year, and organics from December through May,” Quon said.

“Nearly double the volume of Divemex peppers grown to this high environmentally and socially conscious standard is available this year in bulk and various value-added options, including six-packs, three-packs and 2-pound bags.”

Quon also reported excellent response to its Fair Trade certified pepper program.

“We grew modest volumes in 2011, followed by a much larger program in 2012,” he said. “Retail response has exceeded our expectations.”

The Fair Trade label, he said, is well-recognized and respected by shoppers, and it represents an avenue for consumers to buy with confidence about environmental stewardship.

It also enables them to help farm workers in developing countries, he said.

“In our case, for each box of Fair Trade certified peppers we sell, 50 cents is placed in an account that Divemex workers control and determine how to use,” he said. “They are currently channeling the Fair Trade premiums to support middle school, high school and college scholarships for employees’ children and provide opportunities for the workers themselves to complete their own basic schooling if they wish. About 40 of our families have been touched by the program thus far.”