Burch Farms invests in customized harvesters

In the second half of August, Faison, N.C.-based Burch Farms Inc. received two sweet potato harvesters from England, co-owner Jimmy Burch Sr. said.

In their first season of use, Burch expects the machines to harvest about one-third of Burch Farms’ crop.

“I’m excited, but we haven’t dug any yet,” he said. In three or four years, Burch expects the harvesters to pick all of Burch Farms’ sweet potatoes.

Burch traveled to the manufacturer in England to make sure the custom-built harvesters, converted from conventional potato harvesters, met his specifications.

“It took about 18 months to get the thing right,” he said.

Labor costs and the inability of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform were driving forces behind Burch Farms’ decision to invest in mechanical harvesters, Burch said.

SMP now packing consumer bags

Vardaman, Miss.-based SMP Southeast/Edmondson Farms is packing sweet potatoes in 3- and 5-pound mesh/poly bags this season.

In rolling out the bags, SMP is heeding the advice of its customers, said salesman Trey Boyette.

“It’s customer demand,” he said. “People want convenience in their produce.”

Matthews sister firm nears certification

Delta Blues, a standalone packer and sales and marketing office owned by Kim Matthews, co-owner of Wynne, Ark.-based Matthews Ridgeview Farms, is expected to soon receive certification from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

The company has submitted its application and is waiting only on a site visit for its certification, Matthews said.

The designation will make it more likely for the company to attract diversity-minded customers, Matthews said.

Matthews founded Delta Blues three years ago. The company, which employs about 25 people, works with the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff to help new sweet potato growers and minority growers get their crops to market.

Product at the facility is packed under the company’s Delta Blues label.