The Man Behind the Broccoli
Matt Linder has managed the sales and development of Sakata broccoli for over 25 years. This produce vet has a wealth of knowledge that expands far beyond Sakata’s broccoli program. We asked Matt some questions so you can meet the man behind the broccoli!
Q. How long have you worked for Sakata?
Matt: 25.5 years
Q. Last year, Sakata celebrated 100 years, not only in the industry, but as the Broccoli leader (I would not say we been the broccoli leader for 100 years, maybe for decades) – an incredible feat! What makes Sakata the industry leader in the Broccoli category?
Matt: This question is more complicated to answer than one may imagine. When thinking of broccoli we need to consider Brassica as a whole. Our strength in Brassica reaches many decades past. In 1940, Sakata developed the first F1 hybrid cabbage “Suteki Kanran”, which established our company as an innovator of Brassica products. This type of innovation was transferred by our breeders into broccoli hybrids have that assisted the world-wide markets by the development of consistent performing, uniform and adaptive varieties.
An important note, and something all Sakata employees strive for, is our commitment to the motto “quality, reliability and service”. This commitment has allowed us to remain as an industry leader in broccoli and other vegetable and flower species. Additionally, we are very proud of our ethical business practices, leading to trust from our customers in all countries. Having industry leading customer service is also a strong attribute we strive for.
Q. How has Sakata broccoli developed over the years?
Matt: The genetic variability of Sakata’s broccoli germplasm has allowed us to create reliable hybrids with superior quality and adaptability. From Emperor to Shogun, from Marathon to Avenger, from Green Magic to Emerald Crown, Sakata has continually supplied offerings that have increased product quality and yields for growers over the past decades. One of our newest offerings, Centennial, is proving its value to growers in many different countries by offering high yields of quality florets and crowns.
We do not rush to bring products to market; years of field evaluations on our varieties help us to introduce the best varieties possible and help us to better understand a varieties strengths and limitations to transfer the most accurate information to our customers.
Q. How closely do you work with the NAFTA broccoli breeder – Akira Nishi? How does this help us keep an innovative and competitive edge?
Matt: We work together on a daily basis as we are both stationed at our Research Station in Salinas, CA.
Working with such great Brassica breeders who were assigned to our Salinas station over the years such Ryoichi “Joe” Kojima, Kazu Ikami, Toshi Furuki, Ejiro Nakata and now Akira Nishi has challenged us to learn and keep up with the breeding innovations of our company. What has been accomplished when working and traveling together, whether in NAFTA or abroad, is vast and has allowed us to communicate and understand the real needs of our customers. Additionally, the communication and teamwork between the US team and our world-wide breeding team in Japan, led by Manabu Kawamura, is seamless.
Q. You’ve personally been in the industry over 27 years – what’s your favorite variety, and why?
Matt: That is a very tough question for me to answer since we have so many great varieties in our portfolio. However, if I had to pick, my heart says Marathon and my head says Avenger; when considering the unique qualities of these two varieties it is easy to recognize my dilemma. Marathon is such a great variety; it shows excellent adaptability, is multi-use (frozen/fresh processing, crown and bunch) and has had the longevity to perform admirably for many years. To me, Avenger is one of the best broccoli varieties created by our outstanding breeding team. Avenger produces high quality heads that are extremely well suited for fresh and frozen processing and both domestic and export crown cut. I look forward to introducing the “new generation” of broccoli varieties that are presently being developed and will be introduced in the future.
Q. What kinds of tools are available to assist the grower?
Matt: First off, Sakata Area Sales Managers are a valuable source of information to growers. Additionally, we have professionals in many fields, including plant pathology and plant physiology, that answer questions from our Area Sales Managers so they can better understand the problems at hand and transfer the provided information to our customers. Additionally, our distributor network personnel are very learned and work diligently with Sakata employees to help assist grower needs. Our website www.sakata.com offers information on our vegetable portfolio, characteristics of the varieties and contact information for Sakata Area Sales Managers in all regions.
Q. Sakata is known for innovation. What new genetics can we expect to see in the future?
Matt: We will introduce innovative broccoli that will meet both consumer and grower desires for high quality broccoli products. As needs change, so will Sakata’s offerings. Our “bank” is full and we are preparing to introduce products that will allow us to again, as we have done many times in the past, separate ourselves from our competition. Customers will be rewarded for their loyalty to our company and our products by realizing the strength Sakata’s germplasm.