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.