(Aug. 21) San Diego-based U.S. Farms Inc. is taking a big plunge into asparagus growing and shipping, said Yan Skwara, president.

Shareholders of the corporation, publicly traded since 2000 and known until now as International Sports & Media Group Inc., voted at a July meeting to change the corporate name and to focus on agriculture and nursery operations, he said.

Before July, Skwara said the company’s thrust was marketing. He said the opportunity to acquire farming operations and their management personnel was the reason for the change in focus.

Skwara said U.S. Farms immediately purchased selected assets of Phrixus Holdings Inc. Among those holdings, he said, are 210 acres of asparagus and a cold storage facility in California’s Imperial Valley.

Director Darren Pine said the company expects volume equivalent to 42,000 30-pound cartons for the 2006-2007 season. Skwara said gross sales are expected to be about $1.5 million.

Pine, previously a vice president for Phrixus Holdings, said the asparagus harvest may begin as early as mid-December and continue through March. Because winters in the Imperial Valley are much warmer than in the Stockton area, the other major California asparagus growing region, Pine said U.S. Farms expects to ship the crop much earlier than the state’s other grower-shippers.

Pine said U.S. Farms has working agreements with a veteran grower and a veteran packer in the Imperial Valley. He declined to name them.

U.S. Farms will specialize in custom packing for retailers, Pine said. He said U.S. Farms will export to Europe and Asia but that the bulk of sales will be domestic.