Bland upgrades packinghouse
Bland Farms, Glennville, Ga., is upgrading its packinghouse.
“We’re putting in a new wash tank to hopefully give us a better potato,” said Troy Bland, chief operations officer.
The company also has installed an improved brush system and upgraded its inspection area.
“We’ve really worked on the front end of the line to take care of the potatoes better than we were,” he said, adding that the front end line is designed for growth.
The company actually retrofitted some of its onion equipment to handle sweet potatoes.
“We’re really excited about where we’re going with our sweet potato line this year,” he said.
The new equipment should be up and running by mid-September.
Bland Farms also increased its acreage to 1,500 acres after doubling it last year from 500 to 1,000 acres.
“We’re getting very close to going to a year-round sweet potato operation,” Bland said.
This is the third year the company will offer sweet potatoes.
Garber Farms redesigns website
Garber Farms, Iota, La., has redesigned its website, garberfarm.com, said Matt Garber, partner.
Many of the changes were based on consumer feedback, he said.
The site now includes a description of the company’s products, cooking instructions and other information found on the packaging.
Kornegay replaces its packing line
Kornegay Family Produce, Princeton, N.C., marked its 10th anniversary as a sweet potato packer this summer by replacing its old, painted packing line with a stainless steel one and extending the length of the main delivery belt by 24 inches, said co-owner Kim Kornegay-LeQuire.
The company also put in a new stainless steel wash tank.
The new sweet potato line went into service July 4.
The firm has installed new lighting over the box-making area as well as over the packing line and was able to improve grading and quality control by adding space for an additional worker.
Nash hires marketer
Nash Produce LLC, Nashville, N.C., has hired a new director of marketing and business development, added a Hagan computerized slide ejection photo sizer/grader and is reconfiguring its warehouses.
Tami Long has been named to the marketing position, where she will help develop new ways to grow the company’s business, she said. She most recently was with Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications.
The new sizer/grader takes a picture of every potato, determines its size and weight then transfers it to another line, where it is pushed down one of 12 chutes where it will be packed for a particular customer, Long said.
The company will hold onto its older six-lane machine, which it will put it back into service after warehouses are reconfigured to make the process more efficient and to improve the flow of sweet potatoes to meet growing demand, she said.
SMP Southeast increases acreage
SMP Southeast/Edmonson Farms, Vardaman, Miss., will increase its sweet potato acreage by 350-400 acres this season, said Trey Boyette, sales manager and partner.
He attributed the increase to added demand for the company’s beauregard, bellevue and orleans sweet potatoes.
The harvest was expected to start on schedule the third week of August.
Southern fills marketing slot
Brooke Britt has been named director of marketing for Southern Produce Distributors Inc., Faison, N.C., said president Kelley Precythe.
Britt will be responsible for developing and executing marketing strategies and overseeing promotion and advertising initiatives.
She previously worked in marketing for Clifton Seed Co. She will be based at Southern Produce’s Faison headquarters.
Vick ‘Steamables’ proving popular
The 1.5-pound bag of steamer sweet potatoes that Vick Family Farms, Wilson, N.C., introduced last December are growing in popularity, said Charlotte Vick, partner in the company.
Carolina Steamables are small, fingerling-size potatoes that can be cooked and eaten with or without the peels, she said. They’re sold in 12-count cartons.
“They started out slow when they were released, but we are now shipping them weekly,” she said.
“They have become quite popular,” she said, as families seek products that are convenient and help reduce prep time in the kitchen.
The company may start shipping Carolina Steamables to European markets within the next 12-18 months, Vick said.