An East Tennessee vegetable grower-shipper has made several upgrades to tap into growing demand for commodities from a region formerly dominated by tobacco.

Smokey Mountain Produce expands, upgrades equipment

Morristown-based Smokey Mountain Produce LLC has added 15,000 square feet of cooler space, giving the company 45,000 square feet, said Dick Mills, the company’s president and chief executive officer.

In addition, Smokey Mountain has added four precooling rooms, installed stainless steel equipment on its tomato color sorting line and added bell pepper and cucumber machines.

The company also has become a member of the Pick Tennessee program, which promotes locally grown products, Mills said. And a PrimusLabs food safety audit is scheduled for the company for July, he said.

Making the upgrades will make it easier for the company to partner with local growers on packing and other services, Mills said. In the past, he said, many Tennessee growers had to truck their product to Georgia or North Carolina for packing.

Smokey Mountain ships Tennessee-grown tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, green beans, hot peppers and other commodities, Mills said.

The company’s Tennessee deals are expected to kick off with squash and cabbage June 15-20, to be followed by most other items July 1-6, Mills said. The company will likely switch to Georgia in mid-September.

Smokey Mountain, a year-round shipper, also ships product grown in Florida, North Carolina and other U.S. states and in the Dominican Republic.