Pharr commemorates produce season with Fresh on the Border festivities

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The city of Pharr and the Pharr International Bridge will usher in the 2023-24 produce season with a slew of events collectively called Fresh on the Border.

The city and the bridge have held events in the past commemorating the start of the produce season. This year, on the 10th anniversary of those, a news conference was held at Traveler Produce LLC to announce Fresh on the Border.

“Fresh on the Border is a brand new concept for the city of Pharr and the Pharr International Bridge to highlight the importance of international trade with the city of Pharr for the state and for the nation,” Pharr Bridge Director Luis Bazan said.

Every year for the past 10 years the city and the Pharr International Bridge have observed the start of the produce season, which runs from October to the end of March and beginning of April.

Boxed tomatoes in a refrigerated warehouse at Traveler Produce LLC on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

“The start of the produce season is essentially what it sounds like,” Bazan said. “In October, that’s when the majority of the fresh produce that comes from Mexico, fruits and vegetables combined, make their way across through the United States. The season initiates in October.”

In an effort to take things to the next level, the city of Pharr, the Pharr International Bridge and the Greater Chamber of Pharr collaborated to create Fresh on the Border, which will kick off on Oct. 19 at 10 a.m. at the bridge.

The festivities will continue on Oct. 20 when the Pharr Bridge will be hosting a program called Trade Talks.

“Trade Talks will focus more on elaborating further on the start of the produce season and the importance of fresh produce crossing through our bridge and what it means to the community and what it means to the state and the nation,” Bazan said.

Fresh on the Border will conclude with the Avocado Festival on Saturday, Oct. 21. Bazan said that the avocado is the course of inspiration for the festival since it continues to be the primary import crossing the Pharr International Bridge from Mexico.

“We cross the majority of avocados through here,” Bazan said. “I believe it’s about 80% of avocados cross through Pharr International Bridge.”

According to the Pharr International Bridge website, $1.9 billion worth of avocados passed through the bridge in 2022.

Pharr Mayor Ambrosio Hernandez speaks during a press conference showcasing this year’s harvest in a refrigerated warehouse at Traveler Produce LLC on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023. (Joel Martinez | [email protected])

Another event that was introduced last year to help commemorate the start of the produce season is Taste the Trade, a program that invites local restaurants to participate by showcasing some of their dishes using ingredients from products that were imported through the bridge.

“It makes people understand and appreciate those products more,” Bazan said. “These are products that we consume on a day-to-day basis. We just don’t understand where these products are coming from. I think we take for granted where these products come from, why it’s so fresh and why it’s so good.

“It’s because we have this open trade agreement with Mexico that allows these products to come to the United States.”

More significantly, Bazan said that about 65% of produce shipped through Texas ports is shipping through Pharr for all produce.

“Then you have your national volume, which is about 33%. It’s a big deal. That’s why Pharr International Bridge is the number one produce bridge in the nation,” he said.