Mack Farms Inc. is increasing its Florida potato and watermelon acreage and expanding into other items by purchasing a large south Florida operation.
The Lake Wales, Fla.-based Mack Farms recently bought Okeechobee, Fla.-based Eagle Island Farms Inc., which grows and ships cabbage, potatoes, sweet corn and sweet onions from 2,000 acres.
Before the purchase, Mack Farms, which grows and ships watermelon through subsidiary McMelon Inc., grew produce and raised cattle from up to 4,500 central Florida acres.
The addition of a 40,000-square-foot packinghouse and new acreage should help the company expand watermelon production as well as provide more land for rotation, said Arnold Mack, president and chief executive officer.
Mack Farms grows and packs central and north Florida potatoes from early February through June and watermelon from late April to early June, he said.
“This will help by giving us more volume and require fewer products for us to secure from outside sources,” Mack said. “If you have only one farm, you’re always buying loads from others. Though you will never eliminate having to buy product from other sources, this will cut down on some of that. This spring, we will have two watermelon packinghouses.”
Mack Farms is retaining Steve Richey, an Eagle Island salesman, Mack said.
Cabbage is Eagle Island’s main crop and from 1,600 acres, ships two-thirds of its production to cabbage processors, he said.
Eagle Island grows sweet onions from late February to mid-April and the purchase should help boost Mack Farms’ year-round sweet onion repacking, Mack said.
In the past, Mack Farms grew onions but didn’t have the capacity to add drying rooms to its packinghouse, he said.
The company is experimenting with broccoli and plans to harvest napa and bok choy in February and March.
Mack Farms grows new crop red, white and yellow potatoes and sources those potatoes and russets throughout the year.
It has doubled its Florida russet acreage, and in late April, plans to start harvest from 80 acres, Mack said.
A seedless watermelon pioneer, Mack began growing watermelons in south Alabama in 1976 and during the mid-1980s started his Florida operation.