L&M jumps into Georgia deal

09/09/2009 09:30:52 AM
Lance Jungmeyer

That is the new refrain for the sweet potato song at L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., which has become one of the few commercial sweet potato growers in Georgia, said Jeff Axelberg, salesman for potatoes and onions.

In fact, the deal is so small that the U.S. Department of Agriculture ceased tracking Georgia sweet potatoes in 2002, when acreage slipped to about 500 for the state.

But Axelberg said L&M sees promise in Georgia. This is the company’s first year in the deal.

With a 250-acre deal in Moultrie, Ga., the company will be selling the covington variety exclusively. Harvest is slated for late August, with cured product ready for market by the end of September, he said.

“We’re going a little later than where we wanted to be, because of rain,” he said.

Axelburg described the covington variety as blockier and more consistent in sizing than other sweet potato varieties.

“A lot of retailers are starting to like it too because it looks more uniform on the shelves,” he said.

While Axelberg said the variety is attractive to the foodservice market because of its more consistent size and shape, the company is focusing more on the retail market, especially to Southeast customers that might be interested in a more locally grown product.

In addition to Georgia, L&M will ship the covingtons into Florida, he said.

“It helps with the freight advantage for Florida customers,” he said.

Because this year is a limited deal, Axelberg predicted the company would likely run out of Georgia sweet potatoes around Thanksgiving and that holiday-related promotions will have to wait until next year.

“If things go well after this, we will want to become a year-round shipper from Georgia,” he said.

The company should have No. 1, No. 2 and jumbo sizing available, with the product marketed under the Nature’s Delight label.



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