Radishes get harvested by Pioneer Growers. Photo courtesy Pioneer Growers

Pioneer Growers completes new facility

Belle Glade, Fla.-based Pioneer Growers has started shipping from a new facility and moved into the new sales office in August.

Sales manager Jon Browder said the new building is about 80,000 square feet, and the company started using the cooler area in April.

The new facility is “state-of-the-art” with enhanced cold-chain capabilities, Browder said.

Santa Sweets ups organic acreage

Plant City, Fla.-based Santa Sweets, a division of Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros., has been increasing its organic production in Florida, said Rick Feighery, vice president of Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., which grows tomatoes at Santa Sweets,

The company grows organic grape tomatoes in addition to conventional vine-ripe, round, grape and heirloom tomatoes, with its heirlooms branded UglyRipe.

Oakes Farms growing more hard squash, specialty peppers

Oakes Farms in Immokalee, Fla., has added more than 500 acres of hard squash to its program this year.

The company is also cutting back on grape tomatoes and significantly increasing specialty pepper production.

“We’ve doubled up our specialty pepper acreage for this season out of Florida,” Steve Veneziano, vice president of sales and operations, said in mid-November. “The demand has just been so strong we actually have a waiting list until March for new clients.”

Oakes Farms has been doing numerous pack sizes for those vegetables.

“The biggest demand has been on smaller box sizes of specialty pepper,” Veneziano said. “A lot of retailers, maybe independents or smaller-volume departments on those items that they weren’t carrying before, they’re wanting to add more diversity and variety, especially with all the new recipes hitting Instagram and social media for exotic items like a red fresno, a habanero.

“We’re doing a lot of customized packaging in many capacities, both on the retail and the foodservice side,” Veneziano said.

The company also recently reconstructed its packinghouse, adding about 7,000 square feet more for value-added packing.

Oakes Farms also has a new logistics division, created to make shipping as efficient as possible in the wake of the Electronic Logging Devices mandate that was scheduled to take effect in mid-December before a 90-day delay was granted.

Chapman Fruit names director of operations

Immokalee, Fla.-based Chapman Fruit Co. named Stephen Madonia its director of operations following the retirement of Danny Rosbough in May.

Madonia had served for the previous 35 years as vice president of now-defunct East Coast Brokers and Packers in Mulberry.

“The Chapman family was a great opportunity to work for, mainly the family values and the reputation that they have developed over the many years in business — second to none,” Madonia said.

The company handles commodities including bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, squash and watermelons, and it has added tomatoes this year.

In preparation for the implementation of the Electronic Logging Devices mandate, Chapman Fruit created a logistics division two years ago, and that investment has served the company well, Madonia said.

L&M expands pepper program, organics

Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. has expanded its organic vegetable line and has upped the volume of its colored bell pepper program.

Operations manager Adam Lytch said the company has about three times the red and yellow bell pepper production it did last season. L&M has been shipping the proprietary variety in several pack styles under its Backyard Bells brand.

“We’re excited about it,” Lytch said. “We’ve had a lot of good feedback on it this fall going into the Florida season.”

The company also has about double the organic volume it did last year, with commodities including broccoli, kale, dinosaur kale, cauliflower, green and red cabbage and red and gold beets. Cauliflower, red cabbage and beets are new to the offering, Lytch said.

L&M is also promoting its new flat cabbage, dubbed Koolheads.

“It’s a really nice product,” Lytch said, describing the vegetable as tender and sweet. “It works great for cutting and making wraps.”