Becoming a farmer and smoothie and juice maker may be the last thing envisioned for life as a child in El Salvador.
It was also the furthest thing from his mind as he finished school in Richmond after his mother brought him to the United States 15 years ago. But a farmer and purveyor of fresh — never frozen — smoothies and juices, plus coffee and other goodies is exactly what Ortega, 31, is doing now. He owns and operates Sunshine Smoothies & Coffee, a drive-thru shop at 821 Wilson Avenue, just off Highway 37.
A friend told me about a farmer he knew — the Rojas family farm — and I started working at farmer’s markets for them as a vendor. That’s how I started.”
Ortega started learning the ins and outs of farming and discovered he enjoyed it.
Among the things Ortega said he noticed as he learned the farm business, was the tremendous amount of waste.“A peach gets a bruise, and no one wants it,” he said.
This is how the smoothie business started, he said.
Sunshine also has two fruit and vegetable bins, containing the various items produced on Ortega’s 30-acre Tehama County farm, depending on the season.
“I’ve only owned the farm for two years, but I’ve been with it for 14,” he said. “We grow apples, cherries, peaches, nectarines and Bartlett pears.”
The smoothies have names like Purple Giant, which contains apple juice, mangos, peaches, pineapple, ginger kale, spinach, banana and beets. There is also Green Giant, which is basically the same, but without the beets.
The Pineapple Sunshine is pineapple juice, mangos, strawberries and raspberries, while the Sunshine has apples, carrots and oranges. Farm fresh fruits and veggies also go into jams, parfaits and a special pico de gallo, he said.