Bland Farms to grow sweet potatoes - The Packer

Bland Farms to grow sweet potatoes

01/22/2014 11:51:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Vidalia onion grower-shipper Bland Farms LLC is branching out into sweet potatoes.

The Glennville, Ga.-based company plans to grow 200 acres of sweet potatoes in Georgia this year, said president Delbert Bland.

Bland sees it as a perfect complement to the company’s Vidalia onion deal, because the two commodities are grown at opposite times of the year.

Also, he said, Bland Farms has most of the infrastructure in place to add sweet potatoes.

“We’ve been researching it for some time,” Bland said. “We already have the labor, most of the equipment and the storage. The more we looked into it, the more it seemed like a pretty good fit.”

Most of the buyers of Vidalia onions from Bland Farms will be the ones the company targets for sweet potato sales, Bland said. Early reaction from the company’s retail partners has been positive, he said. Most of the company’s sweet potatoes will go to retail.

In addition to growing its own sweet potatoes, Bland Farms expects to source from growers in Mississippi, Louisiana and possibly North Carolina, Bland said.

Bland envisions marketing sweet potatoes under the Bland Farms label year-round. Georgia product could ship through April, with storage sweet potatoes from other states filling the late spring and early summer gap that follows, Bland said.

Bland Farms is starting small with its Georgia deal, with the possibility of growing if product meets the company’s quality standards.

“We want to start slow, get our feet wet,” he said. “We planted a handful last year, just to see what all was involved. We were very pleased with the results.”

Bland Farms plans to highlight the sweet potato program at the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure show Feb. 27-March 1 in Orlando.

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Julie Zimmerman    
texas  |  January, 23, 2014 at 11:06 AM

I believe the promotion of the fried sweet potato is catching on and the product that I have tried is usually really good. In my youth my family prepared another type of fried sweet potato that all the family really liked. Getting a good sweet potato product (fresh) in the grocery stores is sometimes impossible and not always available.

Jesse M. Bookhardt    
Northeast Alabama  |  January, 24, 2014 at 09:25 PM

Last year I grew nine varieties on our farm as an experiment to determine which Cultivars were best suited to our soil and climate. All planted varieties did an acceptable job, but Covingtons proved superior with Beauregards second, and Centennial third. Georgia Jets were left too long in the ground and produced huge tubers but of fine taste. Puerto Rican Bush did well too. Vardman produced nice potatoes but was limited in production. Next year I will be planting Covingtons and Beauregards. It is good to hear that Georgia is expanding its sweet potato acreage. Back in the 1930's and 40's, she was the king of sweet potato farming. My potato growing is small scaled but on four rows of about 165 feet each, I harvested 3200 pounds. I sold some at farmer's markets and gave lots to friends, community kitchens, and neighbors. Since I was lacking a proper climate controlled storage facility, the remainder of my crop finally froze in the barn. My major customers at the local farmers market were older citizens who remembered sweet potatoes as a staple when they were young and young mothers who wanted to feed their young families healthy foods. From a sales point of view, the Covingtons went first and then the Beauregards. If the Bland Farms' Sweet Potatoes are as good as their onions have been, they will sell well.

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