Lea este reportaje en español

After being closed for several months, the strawberry ranch in West Long Beach is back in business under a new local family who will continue the decades-long legacy of selling juicy and sweet strawberries on Santa Fe Avenue.

The family that ran the well-known Ramirez Strawberry Ranch shut it down at the end of May after its patriarch, 85-year-old Rigoberto Ramirez Sr., died from a COVID-19-related illness in February. His son, Stanton Councilman Rigoberto Ramirez Jr., temporarily took over the business but later decided to close in order to prioritize caring for his 78-year-old mother, who developed long-term health conditions after surviving a COVID-19 infection.

Ramirez, 53, wanted to make sure that the land, which was leased from Southern California Edison, would continue to be used for agricultural purposes after the business closure. The community, he said, echoed the same desire.

Rigoberto Ramirez Jr. visits the strawberry field his family operated in West Long Beach on Jan. 22, 2022. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

After months of negotiations with Edison, Ramirez found a suitor: one of his father’s workers.

Leonides Castellanos, 58, had been picking strawberries for the Ramirez family for about seven years and had observed the production process, he said. Castellanos said taking over was a quick decision because there was the opportunity to continue planting for this year.

“The community spoke for this, and we made it happen,” Ramirez said. “I know that the community is very good at supporting local, and I hope that’s the case here moving forward.”

Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Castellanos said he had gained experience in this industry while helping his father and supporting his 10 siblings as Castellanos didn’t go to school. Now living in Carson, he continues his love for the field.

Ivan Castellanos finds a passion fruit growing at a portion of the three acres of land that primarily grows strawberries in West Long Beach on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. The Castellanos family took over the ranch after it closed and renamed it “Santa Fe Strawberries.” Photo by Crystal Niebla.

“I’ve really liked agriculture,” Castellanos said in Spanish.

The Castellanos family plans to open the lot’s retail stand full-time starting this weekend from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or while supplies last.

While Castellanos renamed the business “Santa Fe Strawberries,” he’s following the same growing methods to keep the strawberries tasting like before. Aside from strawberries, the Ramirez family grew fava beans, and now the Castellanos family have added passion fruit to the ranch.

On Saturday morning, some customers lined up for the iconic berries. Ten-year-old Ruth Castellanos, Castellanos’ granddaughter, packaged strawberries for them. Her favorite part of helping her family with the new strawberry business, she said, was “eating them.”

Santa Fe Strawberries is at 3511 Santa Fe Ave.

Ivan Castellanos, 39, and his family work at the front stand to prepare strawberries packs for customers at the renamed “Santa Fe Strawberries” in West Long Beach on Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022. Photo by Crystal Niebla.

After more than 50 years, family-run strawberry ranch to close following patriarch’s death