California Sweet Potatoes Now at Souplantation Year-Round

Joe Alvernaz Harvesting Sweet Potatoes Historical Photo circa 1930
Joe and Mable Alvernaz, parents of “Sweet Potato Joe”, harvest sweet potatoes from one of their fields near Livingston, CA, in the late 1930s. Joe and Mable Alvernaz began what is now a fourth-generation family farm that provides fresh sweet potatoes to a number of customers, including Souplantation restaurants throughout Southern California.

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 2, 2015 — No longer just an autumn and holiday favorite, Souplantation has decided to make the nutritious California sweet potatoes it buys from a family farm founded by legendary “Sweet Potato Joe” a permanent menu item available every evening. The soup and salad specialist cites increased consumption of the root vegetable as more consumers understand the nutritional benefits of the delicious item.

Reinforcing its 38-year commitment in pioneering farm-to-table freshness, Souplantation is buying some of its sweet potatoes from the fourth-generation family farming operation that Joe Alvernaz, widely known as “Sweet Potato Joe,” started after serving in World War II as an aviator. Returning to his boyhood home near Livingston, CA, Joe learned to grow sweet potatoes from his father, who had immigrated to the United States from the Azores Islands, off the coast of Portugal. The Alvernaz family began growing sweet potatoes the way they did in the “Old Country”. Over 70 years later, sweet potatoes have been the mainstay for the family, and their farm has evolved into one of California’s prominent family owned and operated sweet potato operations, shipping more than 300,000 cartons per year.

“My grandfather was a pioneer in the sweet potato business,” says Matthew Alvernaz, who now manages the farming operation with his father, Ben, and Uncle Jim.  “Many sweet potato stories lead back to Joe, and his impact is still apparent today, including having named the variety of sweet potato (Diane) Souplantation guests enjoy.  We are pleased to now be working with Souplantation to share our family’s delicious sweet potatoes.  As a fourth generation family farm, we are a part of a legacy, a legacy we look forward to continuing for many generations to come.”

Increased demand for sweet potatoes has tracked information about the health benefits of the root vegetable, driving per capita consumption nearly 80% between 2000 and 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sweet potatoes are low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol, while a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6 and Potassium and very high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Manganese. For complete nutritional information, click here.

“As our guests have become more aware of the nutritional value of sweet potatoes and have asked us to serve them more often, we’re happy to now offer sweet potatoes every evening at all of our Southern California restaurants because of our relationship with the Alvernaz family farm,” said John Morberg, CEO of Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., parent company of Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes.

Growing the best tasting and texture sweet potato, and delivering it fresh are hallmarks of the Alvernaz family. It starts with soil ideally suited for growing sweet potatoes.  About 95% of the commercially grown sweet potatoes in California are from Merced andStanislaus counties in what is known as the state’s Central Valley. The soil, coupled with climate, creates the highest quality sweet potatoes available.  While Alvernaz says that the methods used to grow sweet potatoes are similar to that of his grandfather, many technologies have improved yields and efficiencies.  For example, current drip irrigation technology not only boosts yield, it uses 50% less water than what was used 20-40 years ago.

Humidity and temperature control preserves sweet potato freshness year round, says Sarah Alvernaz, Matthew’s wife and General Manager of the packing shed, California Sweet Potato Growers.

“We store the sweet potatoes in wooden bins between 55-60 degrees, with 80% humidity to keep them garden fresh,” she said. “Once we receive an order from a customer, we begin the packing process to keep supply the freshest possible.”

“It is great to be doing business with Matthew and Sarah Alvernaz,” Morberg says. “As a pioneer in farm-to-table freshness, we are always looking for local farmer partners who provide us with the highest quality products for our guests.  Now, with an assured supply of fresh sweet potatoes year-round, we can add more sweet potato recipes so our guests can create fun combinations with nutritious and delicious fresh sweet potatoes.”

About Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp.
Each day begins fresh at 124 company-owned Garden Fresh restaurants in 15 states. More than 300 million guests since 1978 have helped us to be number one in fresh produce and salads, made-from-scratch soups, hot pastas, freshly baked breads and muffins, fresh fruit, desserts, and more.  Guests have the freedom to create their own wholesome meal in a one-of-a-kind dining experience in a friendly atmosphere and all at an everyday value.  The company is headquartered in San Diego, CA, and has two brand names:  Souplantation in Southern California, and Sweet Tomatoes elsewhere.

About California Sweet Potato Growers
California Sweet Potato Growers is a grower owned and operated Sweet Potato Packing facility located in the sandy soil of Livingston, CA. The first sweet potato cooperative in California, California Sweet was founded in 1963 by a group of growers with a dream of integrating their farms and bettering their businesses.

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