Longtime Florida vegetable salesman Jim Monteith is joining a Florida company that is collaborating with a Canadian grower-shipper for a year-round bell pepper deal.
Monteith, the former sales manager of Immokalee, Fla.-based Pacific Collier Fresh Co., heads U.S. and Canadian sales for Utopia Can-Am Pepper, a joint venture involving Madison, Wis.-based Can-Am Pepper Co. LP and Palmetto, Fla.-based Utopia Farms. Through the partnership, Utopia Can-Am Fresh sells bell and variety peppers and pickling cucumbers.
Utopia Farms owner Brian Turner, co-owner of Palmetto-based Taylor & Fulton Packing LLC, and Jammie Underhill, Can-Am Pepper’s president, formed the sales and marketing partnership in July.
Monteith, who worked 21 years on Pacific Collier’s sales desk before the company’s owners in June decided to leave the vegetable growing business, said he’s eager to get going and help sell bell and variety peppers throughout the year.
“What attracted me to this deal was the opportunity to help market these products for these growers on the ground floor of a new deal,” Monteith said.
To better market its crops, Turner is constructing a packinghouse just outside of Myakka City, Fla., east of Bradenton. He said he’s planning to break ground on the operation Nov. 1 with construction expected to be completed by late February, in time for the region’s spring vegetable deal.
Declining to discuss acreage, Turner said C&D Fruit & Vegetable Co. Inc., Bradenton, has done well packing and marketing his vegetables.
Turner, a 10-year vegetable grower who for years sold his product to Monteith, said he has needed his own pepper packing line. The new facility should provide more consistent product.
“We started talking and it felt like Jim was a good fit for our operation given his extensive sales experience,” Turner said. “I am just thrilled to have Jim. Obviously, having someone like him handles sales with his experience and knowledge of the industry, it just seemed a natural fit and is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”
Underhill said his operation’s involvement in the Florida deal last year proved successful. He said he reconfigured his company this year to add Turner to become the operation’s Florida grower, providing him product outside of the company’s June through early fall Canadian window.
“We have doubled our market sales here over the course of a year and are very happy with this partnership with Brian and how things are progressing,” Underhill said.
Can-Am Pepper was started in 2009 as a partnership between Port Burwell, Ontario-based Underhill Bros. and the Hartung Bros. Inc. agribusiness operation.
In addition to peppers and pickling cucumbers, Underhill said the Utopia Can-Am Pepper partnership may in the future add other mixer items such as eggplant.
Can-Am Pepper also grows corn, cucumbers, green beans, carrots and other items on more than 8,000 acres in Ontario, Ohio and other Midwestern states.