In 1923, Michael Sterino boarded a ship in Naples Italy and travelled to Ellis Island with his wife and fellow immigrants. Fate brought him to the West Coast, where he took up residence on K Street in Tacoma and bought a little piece of Heaven to farm—15 acres in Fife. For more than 20 years, he made his living growing raspberries, blackberries and pie cherries.
In 1948, after the passing of his wife, Michael Sterino returned to Italy leaving the farm to Louie, the younger of his two sons. Louie grew raspberries and pole beans for several years until the construction of Interstate 5 in 1959 split the Sterino farm in half and destroyed much of the farm’s viability.
Louie’s son, Jack Sterino, however would not let the endeavors of his hard-working father and grandfather be in vain. After serving in the Military, Jack built homes while continuing to farm eventually returning to full time farming. In 1974, after growing lettuce and celery on what little of the farm was left, Jack purchased a 20 acre farm across the street, and the family business was revived. He began growing lettuce, cauliflower, cabbage and celery, and eventually expanded the farm by another 100 acres. His cauliflower alone encompassed 75 acres and was preferred by Associated Grocers markets in Seattle for years.
Local customers wanted Sterino’s produce too-- enough to drive their cars right out onto the growing fields to get it. So in 1978, Jack strategically placed an employee with a wheelbarrow full of produce in the field to accommodate his customers (and save his irrigation pipes.) This led to the building of the original Sterino’s fruit stand in Fife. For the next 28 years, Sterino Farms continued to produce the highest quality fruits and vegetables on the Fife farm, selling it at the stand and to wholesalers across the Pacific Northwest.
With the Port of Tacoma expanding and farmland diminishing in Fife, 1990 brought about the purchase of 35 acres in Puyallup and a fresh site for the family business. The original stand served its loyal customers until 2006, when Sterino Farms centralized their operations at the Puyallup site.
Today, Jack’s son Jake operates the family business and continues the Sterino tradition of quality. Fresh berries, corn, pumpkins, lettuce, cabbage and more are delivered daily to major grocery chains and independent markets from Canada to Portland. All of the Farm’s produce is cut in the morning, then cooled, delivered, and on store shelves that afternoon, making it truly the freshest produce available. At age 76, Jack Sterino still finishes each crop on his tractor earning him the title of ’The Finisher.’ “We’re going to keep farming until the world comes to an end,” he promises.
In addition to providing produce on the West Coast, Sterino Farms also has a reputation for shipping the freshest, best tasting berries across the entire United States. For years the fruits have been faithfully air-freighted overnight so that people back East can enjoy them at their peak, whether they’re being served at the family kitchen table or in the White House dining room. Local customers will purchase these gems under the Sterino Farms name. In other parts of the country, they are sold as Richter’s Premium Brand Berries. George Richter was a third generation Puyallup farmer and berry expert who sold his farms to the Sterinos before his passing in the late 2000s.
In May, 2013, the Sterino Farms family will celebrate the beginning of another new chapter in their 90-year history. The Sterino Farms Produce Market, fashioned after the original Fife produce stand is open at 6116 52nd Street E in Puyallup to carry on four generations of locally grown premium produce.