(UPDATED COVERAGE, March 9)  Two south Georgia grower-shippers of Vidalia onions and other vegetables — Lake Park, Ga.-based Coggins Farm and Produce Inc. and Vidalia, Ga.-based Stanley Farms — have joined to form Generation Farms.

Generation Farms grows Vidalia onions, green beans, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, blueberries and watermelon on thousands of acres in north Florida and south Georgia.

The new company is owned by entities owned by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and in 2014, a Washington company purchased Stanley Farms under the Stanley Produce Georgia corporate name.

Vince Stanley, Stanley Farms’ general manager, declined to state the purchasing company’s name but said the national private family group in 2013 purchased Coggins Farm and in 2014, bought Stanley Farms.

He said the new owners decided to merge both operations into one organization and that new entity plans to market product under the new Generation Farms brand.

The company plans to introduce the new label with the start of this season’s Vidalia crop and phase-out the Coggins and Stanley labels, Stanley said.

The grower-shipper plans to operate sales desks from Lake Park and Vidalia and a larger land base should help it grow more produce including organics. Stanley grew some organic Vidalias but Coggins characterizes itself as one of the East Coast’s largest growers of organic produce.

“Because our footprint extends a couple hundred miles on the East Coast, we are able to stay in front of our customers longer because our crops come off on different maturity dates,” Stanley said. “We’re now able to combine our expertise to provide more diversity and become more of a year-round program.”

That diversity also includes Coggins’ fresh-cut carrot processing facility and Stanley Farms’ facility that processes onions for fresh-cut and processed products.

Generation Farms started operations on March 1.

Stanley Farms began growing Vidalia onions in 1975, although family patriarch R.T. Stanley began farming as a sharecropper in 1964.

A third-generation operation, Coggins began farming in 1945.

 
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