Sales improvement can’t come soon enough for Southern produce companies

06/30/2011 02:16:00 PM
Dan Gailbraith

Campisano services customers within 35 miles of Louisville. Ninety percent of his customers are convenience stores, independent grocery stores, nursing homes, hospitals, schools and universities.

Although Louisville has lost some independent grocery stores, Campisano said the metro area still has several. In addition to competition from chain stores, the remaining independents face competition from convenience stores and big-box stores, such as Sam’s Club.

Adam Watson, produce marketing specialist, Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Frankfort, also said there still were a number of independent stores in Louisville, but he didn’t know how many.

Louisville also has some small supermarket chains that have three or four stores. They differentiate themselves by promoting local products as their niche, Watson said.

He said Louisville also has a high concentration of farmers markets, with more than 20 within the county. The abundance of farmers markets demonstrates that area consumers do pay attention to where they purchase food, Watson said.

“Louisville has a burgeoning local food environment,” he said.

Beans are Kentucky’s biggest crop in terms of acreage, Wszelaki said.

There are 10,000 acres of snap beans grown in Tennessee, and the area along the I-40 corridor between Cookeville and Crossville, Tenn., is the state’s main snap bean production area.

There also are numerous vegetable producers in Bledsoe and Rhea counties and a pocket of growers in Lauderdale County, Wszelaki said.

However, adverse weather this spring has caused some crop damage in Tennessee.

Severe storms, tornadoes, straight-line winds and flooding from April 25-28 led the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare disaster areas in seventeen counties, including Bledsoe and Rhea.

On April 28, a tornado went through Bledsoe County and one grower, Jackson Farm, Pikeville, Tenn., lost seven tractors. The same day, the University of Tennessee lost several fields of sweet corn to hailstorms.

 “We had to start over,” Wszelaki said. “We won’t have the first corn on the market, but we should still have a market.”

Although Wszelaki says she isn’t sure how much of an effect the storms had on statewide fruit and vegetable production this season, she expects it will be significant because so many counties were affected.

Like Tennessee, Kentucky had heavy rains this spring.



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