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Santa Maria Food Processing Facility to Boost Top Cash Crop

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A massive agricultural facility could be just the boost Santa Maria's economy needs. The building will provide 226,000 square feet of cooling and food processing space. It's expected to give even more help to Santa Barbara County's top cash crop.

Only a few months ago, the skeleton of the massive cooling and food processing facility on La Brea Avenue was being built. Fast forward to now, and the structure is nearing completion and is less than 2 months away from it's scheduled finish date in June.

Colton-based Lineage Logistics is behind the project, which will provide a home for local strawberries to be stored and processed, easing the demand for cooler space during peak harvesting times.

Claire Wineman with the Grower-Shipper Association of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties said, "There are certain periods where there is a tremendous demand for harvesting the products and then cooling those products in a way that they will be viable in the market."

The facility will also offer in-house transportation to local and national markets, boosting the region's already well-established reputation as a primary strawberry provider.

"We're definitely happy to see continued investment in the agricultural industry," said Wineman. "It's a major economic contributor to the Central Coast."

The strawberry is Santa Barbara County's largest cash crop. The gross production value was around $450-million in 2012 for local growers.
The facility will primarily be a processing plant, which varies from similar coolers that store produce that's delivered to the market fresh and whole.

"At a minimum, all our fresh produce needs to be cooled. But then, additionally, there's opportunities to process that in different ways, whether thats preparing it to be frozen, or in the case of strawberries maybe juicing it or turning it into strawberry jam and that sort of thing," said Wineman.

When it's fully operational, the facility is expected to provide 28 permanent jobs and 250 seasonal jobs.

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