January 2013 - Dean Diefenthaler of Duda Farms in Fillmore - Ventura County Agricultural Education

As soon as Dean stepped out of his big Ford pickup truck in front of a lush expansive field of celery it was like meeting someone like John Wayne, minus the cowboy hat. If you know Dean you know his personality is filled with generosity and an enthusiasm for growing celery. He is very happy to share his keen knowledge of farming, which is no surprise once you learn about Dean’s long career in agriculture. Dean grew up on a family farm in northwestern Ohio. He knew he wanted to farm from a very early age and as a result went on to study Ag Economics at Ohio State University (Go Buckeyes!) and was fortunate Duda had an opening upon his graduation. Thirty-two years later he has no regrets.

Dean is now a vice president at A. Duda & Sons, which is the largest celery producer in the US considering both fresh cut and carton products. Duda came to VC in the mid 1980’s stemming from expansion from Florida to the West Coast, which took them to Salinas and made Duda a year round shipper. VC was just the next step in becoming a year round shipper on the west coast. The Duda company is now beyond its 85th anniversary and looking forward to 90 plus as it is now successfully in its fourth generation of management, a monumental accomplishment in itself considering that only approx 1% of family businesses have accomplished this feat. It takes a lot of strength and faith within a family for this to occur and the Duda Family is long on both. Dean states, “I am very proud to have been associated with and worked for them for his entire career.”

Sustainability and or implementing sustainable practices is a big part of Duda’s future plan. Dean explained, “Let’s face it, if we want the 5th and 6th generations of Duda to continue their family’s tradition of farming and providing healthy food products to the world, we better be implementing sustainable practices which will help us get there and see to it that we have an environment that will support it.” Duda’s plan includes:

  • GPS Technology in tractors to minimize fuel consumption

  • Composting to help introduce healthy soil structure and to recycle green waste by reducing the dependency on synthetic fertilizers

  • Duda’s tractors are equipped to meet and exceed the latest stage emission generation standards helping air quality.

  • All Duda fields are managed under strict IPM practices (integrated pest management), which utilizes less aggressive materials & are more environmentally safe and more specific to targeted pests therefore allowing beneficial insects to live and help in the crop’s protection.

  • Irrigation technology, which uses ETO (evaporation and plant transpiration) considerations towards timing and duration.

  • Duda has installed Solar Panels on the top of their 63,000 square foot facility and added under cover parking with Solar Panels.

  • Lastly, the primary business focus of Fresh Cut and value added products are to not ship any product waste across the country. This means that all of the transportation and carbon footprint follows these items to their final destination and no trimming or cleaning needed, which means no waste. You just open the package and enjoy without throwing half of what you buy away.

Thank you Duda Fresh Farms and Dean for providing us with the most delicious celery I have tasted and for all you do. To learn more about Duda Fresh please visit –
Duda Fresh Farms

Photos & Video: Art Shinn