With her entire career devoted, on one level or another, to the business of good health, Maria Lopez of Pajaro Valley Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Distributing in Watsonville, CA, is ideally matched for the three-day Tour de Fresh cycling fundraiser.
This year marks the third Tour, and Maria, an avid cyclist who trains year-round for events such as this, told OnionBusiness.com shes riding upwards of 100 miles each week now in preparation for the July 26-28 ride from Napa to Monterey, where it will finish at the PMA Foodservice Conference. Her training distance will increase as the ride draws closer.
Because she is also mom to seven-year-old Mason and also director of sales and marketing at Pajaro Valley, Maria frequently finds herself on a training bike in her garage at 4 a.m. Or she schedules training rides such as the one-day, 75-miler shell soon take in St. George, UT.
She trains other riders at times, but for the most part she trains alone, doing drills for intensity.
And she, Mason and Masons dad, Jeb, hit the trails for family rides frequently as well.
Mason, Jeb and I hike and mountain bike, she said. Jeb doesnt cycle competitively, preferring free diving to pedaling.
But hes very supportive of my riding and training, and I couldnt do it without him, Maria said.
Mason, though, is a competitor, joining his mom in a July triathlon in Pacific Grove, CA.
All in all, Maria Lopez is devoted to a healthy lifestyle for herself and her family, and she said onions of course factor into her own regimen as well as into the Tour de Freshs original goal of financing salad bars in schools across the country.
WATCH MARIA’S 2015 TOUR DE FRESH PROMOTIONAL VIDEO
The specific goal of the 2016 Tour de Fresh and its participants is to privately finance 100+ new salad bars in the nations school districts, at a cost of $3,100 per salad bar per school. Each of the events 55 riders is seeking sponsorships in that amount or more for the cause, and sponsorships can be arranged by visiting the web site. www.tourdefresh.com and the riders page, http://www.tourdefresh.com/riders.php.
Notably, the newsroom page on the site is sponsored by Pajaro Valley Fresh.
Maria, whose professional background has always been health-related, came to Pajaro Valley Fresh in a roundabout fashion. She was a gym trainer at age 19 and then went on to a career in physical therapy and chronic pain management, teaching exercises in a group setting.
Eventually she sought a change, deciding to go into pharmaceutical sales, and she relocated to Carmel Valley.
I didnt have sales experience, so I got a job at a produce company. Pajaro Valley was my customer, and they recruited me from that job. I fell in love with the produce industry, she said. This year is her 14th with Pajaro Valley, and the love she has for produce continues to grow because it really does tie in with my experience in the health industry.
Today she oversees marketing for a number of commodities, and onions are one of the major items from Pajaro Valley.
The 33-year-old company has been in the Terra Linda deal for more than two decades, she said of the San Joaquin Valley onion deal.
Maria herself is a longtime member of the National Onion Association and sits on the promotions committee. Bill Hagins, Pajaros managing member, is on the membership committee. And Maria was the second woman in the NOAs history to get a Green Coat, she said. That honor was bestowed on her at the NOA convention in Maui.
I cant say enough good things about the NOA, she said. Pajaro Valley has become perennial sponsor of a 5K at the NOAs winter convention, she added.
Maria said her participation in the Tour de Fresh, as well as her membership in the NOA, are about giving back.
The Tour, which came about when The California Giant Foundation, which owns a professional cycling team, came up with a collaborative event that unites the most significant brands and influencers in the fresh produce industry for a [multi-]day cycling event that raises funds to benefit the Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools campaign. Bill Hagins, Maria said, went to school with the California Giant Berry Farms folks, and she had actually cycling recreationally with some of the professional team members. So she was a shoo-in for the inaugural event that raised over $142,000 and purchased more than 40 salads bars in 11 states. She rode again last year, when the total funds raised from the two events hit more than $300,000 and more than 100 salad bars were gifted to schools.
Maria sees the correlation between healthy eating and Masons own choices.
This is a kid who asks for raw onions when we go to restaurants, she said.