Vegetable sales agent Marker 29 Produce Inc. is closing its doors after its major grower started its own sales agency.

Loss of grower prompts Marker 29 to shut down

In mid-April, the Onancock, Va.-based vegetable broker was winding down operations after two former salesmen helped create a new sales organization for Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., Lake Park, Ga. That company was Marker 29’s biggest grower-shipper.

Blackwater Produce LLC, Lake Park, established by former Marker 29 salesman Harry Sheaffer and Steve Sterling, along with principals at Coggins, now market the grower’s vegetables.

Steve Cody, Marker 29’s president, said it is time to move on to something else and retire.
“We are not closing under bad circumstances,” he said. “We haven’t had any financial problems and don’t have any bad feelings towards anyone. It’s unfortunate. It would have been nice if we could have kept going a while longer.”

Cody, 61, said the company only had him and his bookkeeper working in mid-April.

Loss of grower prompts Marker 29 to shut down

Sean Cornelius, who worked at Marker 29’s Plant City, Fla., office, Kevin Coggins, Mike Coggins, Sheaffer and Sterling are co-owners of Blackwater, a separate company that markets bell peppers, cucumbers, squash and carrots from Coggins Farm.

While Coggins remains Blackwater’s principal grower, the marketer plans to sell for new growers under the Blackwater label, Sheaffer said.

“We are taking a hard look at the quality of our product and the growers and sourcing options and food safety,” he said. “This is a transition to a new structure. A lot of things will stay the same, especially from the outside looking in.  This will be more of a fine-tuned machine.”

Blackwater, through Coggins, has growing and consolidation operations in Fairfield, N.C., Hudsonville, Mich., and Plant City.

The company is transitioning from the Coggins Farm label this summer.

Cody started Marker 29 in 1997 after the demise of the Onley, Va.-based Farmers Exchange Inc., which was once one of Virginia’s largest vegetable shippers.