Curry & Co. sweet onion partnership working well

03/29/2012 12:52:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

STATESBORO, Ga. — Curry & Co. of Georgia LLC opens its second season growing and shipping sweet onions from one of the Vidalia deal’s northernmost producing regions.

In October 2010, the Brooks, Ore.-based Curry & Co. expanded its presence in Vidalia onions by buying Gerrald’s Vidalia Sweet Onion Inc.’s packing facility.

Curry purchased the packing facility from Gerrald’s president Terry Gerrald and Jamie Brannen, sales manager.

Gerrald and Brannen are partners in the company with Curry & Co. president Matt Curry.

The partnership is working well, combining two operations to provide Curry year-round regular onions and sweet onions, said David Hicks, Curry’s Albuquerque, N.M.-based chief operating officer and general manager.

“This has given us a lot of traction in many areas,” Hicks said.

“In the industry, you have a lot of companies specializing in one area or the other, regular onions or sweet onions. You have some big onion and big sweet onion companies, but you don’t have many doing both.

“We can go in and offer all different types of colors, sizes and varieties and combine that with a 52-week sweet onion program. It’s an exciting accomplishment to have the nation surrounded with both commodities.”

At the Statesboro facility, Curry repacks many items, including contraseasonal sweet onions from Peru, Chile, Mexico and Texas, as well as Georgia carrots and watermelon.

One big change involves ratcheting up the operation’s food safety, Hicks and Brannen said.

With one of the operation’s partners a certified auditor, Hicks said the operation is placing a strong priority on safety.

A Primuslabs.com-certified safety auditor, Brannen learned auditing via Primus’ auditors training in Yuma, Ariz., as well as completing courses offered by the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., and the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, LaGrange.

“You see it from both sides of the fence,” Brannen said.

“I had been on the farm and packing shed side. Now I see it from the auditing side. I know what they’re (the auditors) looking for and the end result they’re trying to get.”

Good agricultural practices-certified since 2002, the packing facility undergoes third-party audits from Primus, Davis Fresh and Silliker for its carrots and onions, Brannen said.

“Our owner is an auditor,” Hicks said.

“As the industry has really pushed toward food safety, we have put that high on our list of things to accomplish. As we do different things in different parts of the country and Chile and Peru, we have that knowledge and background. That has helped us really advance our program.”

While Brannen uses his auditing skills to ensure the safety of the onions the Georgia operations grows, packs and ships, as an auditor, he cannot audit any of his own operations.

The company is still required to receive inspections from outside auditors, Hicks said.

The operation has handled and repacked Curry’s East Coast Chilean and Peruvian sweet onions imported through Savannah since 2007.



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