Burch Farms boosts infrastructure

Faison, N.C.-based sweet potato grower-shipper Burch Farms had added to its operation in several ways this year, said Jimmy Burch, co-owner.

“We’re bringing in some more bagging equipment to go with a new sorter last year,” he said.

The company also is adding storage to accommodate an additional 60,000 bushels, Burch said.

Burch Farms also increased its acreage by about 10% for the new season, Burch said.


Farm Fresh Produce adds salesman

Steven Ceccarelli, who started Faison, N.C.-based Farm Fresh Produce in 2010, recently hired a former colleague for his sales staff, he said.

The newcomer, who started his new job Sept. 1, is Bobby Daughtry, who had been with Southern Produce Distributors in Faison for more than 15 years, said Ceccarelli, who left Southern Produce Distributors to launch his own company.


Ham Farms beefs up production

Snow Hill, N.C.-based Ham Farms & Produce Co. has increased its acreage in North Carolina and Florida by about 50%, for a total of about 13,000 acres, said Stacy Ham, vice president.

The company also has spread its value-added operations, too, having opened a $20 million dehydration plant in Farmville, N.C., Sept. 30. The new facility employs about 60 workers, Ham said.

Ham Farms also recently launched a sweet potato vodka, she said.

The moves help the company to diversify, Ham said.


Sweet potato commission revamps directory

The Benson-based North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission Inc. has issued a new membership directory, said Sue Johnson-Langdon, executive director.

The new publication “is a pictorial and informational listing of our membership, which includes packer-shippers, associate members, as well as growers,” she said.


Nash Produce expands storage, bagging

Nashville, N.C.-based Nash Produce Co. has expanded its storage capacity by more than 25% for 2014, said Thomas Joyner, general manager.

“We were one of the few shippers in North Carolina that didn’t run out of 2013 crop until the 2014 cured crop was available,” he said.

The company also has added a steamable product and increased its bagging capability, Joyner said.

There’s also a new label that promotes Nash’s line of sweet potato options, Joyner said. 


Scott Farms adds storage, acreage

Lucama, N.C.-based Scott Farms has added 100,000 bushels of storage and cooling capacity this year, said Stephanie Williams, sales manager.

The company also has increased its acreage and continue to offer several different specialty varieties, including white, purple and murasaki sweet potatoes, Williams said.

In addition, Scott Farms’ microwaveable sweet potatoes also now feature a quick-response code that provides consumers information about the company and contest entry information, Williams said.

Scott Farms offers 12 count 3-pound bagged sweet potatoes year-round, Williams said.


Vick Family Farms boosts operations

Wilson, N.C.-based Vick Family Farms has added to its sorting operation, said Charlotte Vick-Ferrell, partner.

In addition, at the end of September, the company opened a curing and storage facility that holds 180,000 bushels in controlled-atmosphere storage, she said.

“We will start filling those rooms in the next few weeks,” she said of the building, which gave the company four such facilities.


Wada Farms bolsters exports

Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Wada Farms Marketing Group LLC, which has a sweet potato operation in Raleigh, N.C., has added to its North Carolina operation, said Jeff Scramlin, the company’s Raleigh-based director of business development for sweet potatoes.

“We’ve installed some new bagging and packaging equipment this year to increase value-added offerings in bags and easy-steamer products,” Scramlin said.

Wada also launched a joint venture with another U.S. company to handle sweet potato export business, Scramlin said.

Wada Farms Marketing Group and its partner, which Scramlin did not identify, recently opened offices in the United Kingdom and Amsterdam “and have already made great headway into expanding our offerings overseas,” he said.

“We look forward to ramping up volume once our new crop sweet potatoes are fully cured and ready for export.”


Wayne E. Bailey enters fingerlings

Chadbourn, N.C.-based Wayne E. Bailey Produce Co. is launching a bilingual bag — French and English — this year for Canadian retail customers, primarily in Quebec, said George Wooten, president.

The bag, bearing the Green Giant Fresh label, will be ready for Thanksgiving promotions, Wooten said.

“It’s very similar to our regular package,” Wooten said.

The company expects to ship about 200,000 of the new bags, he said.

Wayne E. Bailey Produce also is working to launch a sweet potato fingerling program, Wooten said.

The fingerlings measure a half inch to 1½ inches in diameter to 2-4 inches in length, Wooten said.

“We have some foodervice customers that buy it, too, but we’re trying to work on a retail deal and we believe is going to come to fruition this year,” Wooten said.