Business updates: Florida Spring Produce

03/02/2012 10:21:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Hearne Produce adds cooler storage
Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, Fla., has added two cooling units.
This boosts the grower-shipper’s cooling capacity to 32 pallets per unit. Previously, Hearne refrigerated cabbage in one unit, said Jeff Williams, president.
To help better market its cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day, Hearne is introducing a St. Patty’s Day bin theme. 
Williams said Hearne last year received strong response to its St. Patrick Day themed 50-pound cartons and said it received requests for use on bulk bins, which hold 600 pounds of cabbage. 
“There’s more interest in bins to keep prices down on the retail end,” Williams said. “With the volume we will have this year, they can take the bins.”
L&M Cos. expands coolers, dock
Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. expanded its cooler and dock at its Palatka, Fla., operation.
The addition of 12,000 square feet of cooling capacity gives the grower-shipper a third cooler to cool its cabbage and help improve its shelf life, said Adam Lytch, operations manager.
L&M also enclosed its dock and loading doors. The sealed dock maintains the cold chain from field cabbage unloading to outgoing truck loading, Lytch said.
The climate-controlled room should also help improve efficiencies for its potato packing, he said.
L&M completed the improvements in mid-February.
Mack Farms hires watermelon salesman
Mike Starnes is doing watermelon sales for Mack Farms Inc. and McMelon Inc., Lake Wales, Fla.
Starnes, who joined the potato and watermelon grower-shipper in July, worked as a buyer for the West Palm Beach, Fla., buying office of Topco Associates Inc., the Skokie, Ill.-based retail buying cooperative.
Starnes also sold tomatoes for the defunct Vine-Ripe Specialties, Fort Myers, Fla., and watermelon for the Wauchula, Fla.-based Moye Farms and Heartland Produce.
“This is a great opportunity,” Starnes said. “I’ve pretty much worked the Florida deal and have been around the fruit industry for some time. 
“Ken (Wiles, general manager) is teaching me about potatoes very good.”
Pioneer Growers builds packing facility
Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, Fla., is constructing a hydrocooling facility.
It’s also building a large canopy to cover the receiving area where Pioneer plans to handle its corn.
Scheduled for completion in early April, the improvements are being constructed in two phases. 
The first phase is the receiving canopy, which includes the hydrocoolers feeding into the dock. 
The second phase involves demolition of an old building for construction of new refrigeration, said Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager.
Pioneer plans to refrigerate its corn, beans, celery, radishes and cabbage in the new operation.
Southern Corporate enters Honduran deal 
In mid-February, Southern Corporate Packers Inc., Immokalee, Fla., began importing Honduran watermelons.
Brian Arrigo, president, said the grower-shipper plans to import watermelon during the winter. He said he plans to offer Honduran watermelon until Florida production begins in late March and early April. 
Additionally, Southern Corporate Packers is increasing volume of its personal-sized watermelons.
The firm expanded production by 25%.  
Arrigo said Southern Corporate Packers began offering the small watermelon several years ago and is receiving more customer requests.
Southern Corporate Packers grows the smaller watermelon in Immokalee and central and north Florida.
Utopia-Can-Am builds packinghouse
Utopia-Can-Am Pepper Co. LP, Madison, Wis., is making progress on construction of its packinghouse. 
A partnership between Palmetto, Fla.-based Utopia Farms and Can-Am Pepper, the bell pepper grower-shipper plans to relocate from Bradenton, Fla., to Myakka City, Fla., in mid-April when it opens the 50,000-square-foot facility.
The new operation is set to house packing lines handling bell pepper and pickling cucumbers.
Jim Monteith, head of U.S. and Canadian sales, said construction remains ahead of schedule and that the company plans to open the facility in time for the start of central Florida’s spring harvest.
The 40-acre site is adjacent to 2,200 acres of Utopia’s farmland.
In other news, Utopia–Can-Am Pepper is expanding into eggplant and pickling cucumbers and is increasing its bell pepper acreage.
Monteith declined to state the acreage but called it substantial. 
From its central Florida operations, Utopia–Can-Am Pepper plans to begin shipping the pickling cucumbers in early April and eggplant in mid-April.


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