South Carolina deal expands Pacific Tomato production Completing year-round production, Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd., plans to sell tomatoes for a major South Carolina grower-shipper.

The Palmetto, Fla.-based Pacific signed a deal to handle the sales and marketing for Seaside Farm Inc., St. Helena Island, S.C.

In the agreement, Pacific, which markets its tomatoes under the Sunripe brand, plans to sell Seaside"s 400 acres of mature-greens, round reds and vine-ripes packed in Seaside"s Seaside label from early June to after July 4, said Jon Esformes, Pacific"s operating partner and chief marketing officer.

Esformes said the deal closes Pacific"s early summer gap and allows it to sell tomatoes throughout the year.

Pacific grows tomatoes in Bainbridge, Ga., across the border from Quincy, Fla. Esformes said Pacific grows mature-greens and grape tomatoes in the fall grape tomatoes in the spring.

Since 2007, East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc., Mulberry, Fla., sold Seaside"s tomatoes.

Seaside co-owner Mac Sanders said Seaside enjoyed a productive business relationship with East Coast, but he and his brother, co-owner Gray Sanders, felt it was time to change for the fifth-generation family business.

"This seems like a good fit and it came at the right time," Mac Sanders said. "It may allow us to do some things down the road that we couldn"t have done before. They are a multi-generation family outfit like we are."

Though Pacific"s Esformes family owners began talking with Seaside a decade ago about a sales partnership, Esformes said such a partnership only made sense recently.

"As part of our ongoing reorganization and alignment, which we started in 2004, we felt families like ourselves and the Sanders family could help each other in navigating through these increasingly competitive and difficult times," Esformes said.

"The Sanders family has been farming tomatoes since the turn of the 20th century while our fourth generation family started in the 1920s," he said. "There aren"t many of us left that share the commitment to quality and have the same ethics and family values."

The Esformes family"s long involvement with the Sanders began through George Lee, a longtime salesman for Tomatoes of Ruskin Inc. and Pacific who died in 2001.