Vocal advocates for avocados gather for festival

judysalamacha@gmail.comSeptember 8, 2013 

The seventh annual Morro Bay Avocado and Margarita Festival’s website www.avomargfest.com boasts “the BEST California avocados in all variations of culinary delights as well as refreshing margaritas, beer, local wines, specialty foods, arts and crafts, and live entertainment on the beautiful Embarcadero … ”

Consume in costume. Vote for the best avocado recipe, best fiesta costume and the best-dressed sombrero. Prizes include a year’s supply of California Calavo avocados.

Staged across from Rose’s Landing, the festival is scheduled Saturday and Sunday. A $2 entry fee helps support the Morro Bay High School Music Boosters.

Bill Coy, a Central Coast avocado grower and advocate for California avocados, has been on the festival committee since the beginning.

“It’s taken seven years. We’ve grown and improved each year, but I can wholeheartedly report this year we have the right team of people working together to make this the best festival ever. Fifteen booth spaces were added that immediately sold out, and we have better entry access so we won’t have lines.”

Seven years ago, Coy was a California Avocado Commission board member. He enticed the commission staff to get involved with the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce’s newest event.

The commission has been involved every year. And for two years, it has helped Coy stage countywide displays promoting the California avocado at all county grocers.

“We had a freeze in 2007 and had to use avocados from Chile and Mexico for the first festival,” Coy said. “Then when we had a bigger crop year, we couldn’t sell them to the stores. They were promoting price, but the Chilean fruit was rotting in the stores. Our crops have been better, so now we use 100 percent California avocados at the festival. And our local grocers are promoting California avocados. They learned consumers want the tastier fruit and will even pay more.”

Coy is thrilled the industry is growing fast.

“Midwest consumers are eating 40 percent more avocados. In the United States, we eat 5 pounds per capita. Mexico is still ahead of us at 20 pounds per capita. And we’re eating more than guacamole.”

Local grower Jim Shanley branded the Morro Bay avocado’s quality in the East through Whole Foods. Bob Staller of Morro Creek Ranch diversified avocado uses, including in cooking oil. Guacamole is abundant at the festival, thanks to Calavo’s Frank Alegria, who provides avocados annually for the Morro Bay High School cheerleaders.

“This is a big year for avocados,” Coy said. “They’ll be in the stores into October. Most of us are small growers — average 5 acres — with so much potential. Everywhere I go, people say they love avocados. I never tire of hearing it.”

Judy Salamacha’s column is special to The Tribune. Reach her at judysalamacha@gmail.com or 801-1422.

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