November 2, 2019

Ag Career Was Always On Tap

Dominic J. Muzzi


Muzzi Family Farms, LLC

Moss Landing, CA

Member Since 1984 | Director Since 2018

CATCHING THE FARMING BUG: When Dominic Muzzi was six years old, his father put him on top of a tractor and let him drive it. From that day on, he knew he would take up the family business and specialty agriculture would be his career choice. He worked in the family farming operation throughout his youth and after one year at Hartnell College in Salinas, he joined the company full time in 1983 at the age of 19. Today, Dominic works alongside his sister, Lisa Muzzi, and his father, Dominic Sr., running the operation, which consists of a handful of entities.

THE BACK STORY: Dominic Sr. and his future wife, Martha, met in Pescadero, north of Santa Cruz, where Martha grew up and Dominic had family connections. In fact, both families farmed the area and it is where Dominic Sr. started his career as a farmer with his family. But in 1964, the young couple moved 60 miles south to Moss Landing and began their own farming company with Martha’s father growing Brussels sprouts, English peas, fava beans, broccoli and cauliflower. They also began their family with Dominic Jr. coming first followed a few years later by Lisa.

A STABLE OPERATION: For the next 20 years, the Muzzis raised their family and farmed the land. They added a roadside stand in 1975 and altered their crop rotation as opportunities arose, but no major changes occurred as the company concentrated on building their reputation as a top-quality and service-oriented organization.

CHANGING WITH THE TIMES: Since the mid-‘80s, the Muzzi family has changed its business model, added new entities and thrived as a processor and sales agent for both fresh and frozen specialty vegetables. The business model began to change as Dominic and then Lisa became more involved in the company.

In the mid-1980s, the family stopped farming the ground they owned but rather leased the land and became a sales agent for other growers. In 1984, Watsonville Produce Inc. was formed to handle cooling, sales and shipping of vegetables grown on area farms. Through the ‘90s, partnerships were formed with many growers and companies as the company became a co-packer, as the value-added revolution took center stage. Dominic Jr. modestly admits the company was not a pioneer in the movement but was an early adopter and provided co-packing services for several other companies as they dipped their toes in the value-added category.

Along the way, they added a cooling and shipping facility in Yuma, the Red River Fresh Produce Facility

Two decades later, in 2007, the family business became the managing partners of Blue Ribbon Frozen Foods, LLC in Watsonville to process, freeze and pack locally grown vegetables.

In 2012, they added a sales division, Muzzi Family Farms, and began selling the products they were packing and cooling, both on the fresh and frozen side. Dominic says there are some synergies on the growing side between fresh and frozen vegetables, with many of the growers supplying both and the frozen facility does give growers an extra option for their excess production.

Continuing its steady growth, earlier this year, Muzzi Family Farms, in partnership with Coastline Family Farms, launched C&M Family Cooling LLC, a cold storage and shipping facility in Castroville, CA.

STILL A FAMILY AFFAIR: While 77-year-old Dominic Sr. is phasing out of day-to-day management, he still serves as the president of Watsonville Produce and is still an important member of the family team. Dominic Jr. spends most of his time managing the numerous entities, which include the multiple fresh cooling and shipping plants, the frozen vegetable operation as well as the sales team. Each facility has its own senior manager in place. He calls Lisa the “hub” of the organization as she handles administration, the IT (information technology) department and accounting. Dominic considers the Muzzi Family Farms’ operations a small player in specialty agriculture, especially when compared to the very large companies in the industry. But with the company’s many different entities, he does allow that maybe they are a medium-size operation. “Among all of our entities, we sell about 10-12 million packages a year,” he said.

FAMILY LIFE: Dominic Jr. and his wife, Casey, live on the Muzzi Family Farm in the same house in which Dominic grew up. The two met at the annual rodeo in Brawley, where Casey also grew up in a farming family. “We have no kids, but lots of animals,” Dominic said.

For fun, the couple love to travel and has spent many vacations following the career of a nephew who is a pilot in the Air Force. They have visited him at many of his assignments, including when he graduated from the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and while he was stationed in Florida. They also are very much looking forward to the 2019 Western Growers Annual Meeting in Hawaii.

THE FUTURE OF AG: Like most in the California agricultural business, Dominic is an optimist. He acknowledges that producing food in the Golden State is a challenge with seemingly new hurdles to jump every year. “It is getting more challenging with labor and water issues and new regulations,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for 50+ years and we plan to continue.”

WESTERN GROWERS CONNECTION: The company has been a member of Western Growers for many years but it was only in 2018 that Dominic got actively involved in the organization as a member of the Board of Directors. “It is very interesting and helpful to interact with the other board members who have different commodities and are growing in different regions. It is very good to be exposed to other ideas and hear how others are dealing with their concerns and the issues we all face.”