Vegetable sales agent Marker 29 Produce Inc. is closing its doors after its major grower started its own sales agency.
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 29âs 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 growerâs vegetables.
Steve Cody, Marker 29âs president, said it is time to move on to something else and retire.
âWe are not closing under bad circumstances,â he said. âWe havenât had any financial problems and donât have any bad feelings towards anyone. Itâs unfortunate. It would have been nice if we could have kept going a while longer.â
Cody, 61, said the company only had him and his bookkeeper working in mid-April.
Sean Cornelius, who worked at Marker 29âs 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 Blackwaterâs principal grower, the marketer plans to sell for new growers under the Blackwater label, Sheaffer said.
âWe are taking a hard look at the quality of our product and the growers and sourcing options and food safety,â he said. âThis 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.â
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 Virginiaâs largest vegetable shippers.