(Dec. 12) DOVER, Fla. — Gulf Coast Produce Inc. is expanding its cooling and acreage and has brought in new salesmen.

The strawberry grower-shipper plans to double its cooling and precooling capacity through an addition made to the east side of its operational headquarters north of Plant City.

Gulf Coast in December was awaiting approval from local government authorities for permitting.

Steve Machell, sales manager, said he expected to receive the go-ahead by the end of December. Once permission for expansion is granted, Gulf Coast plans to begin construction by the end of January. The coolers could be operational for the March Florida strawberry push, Machell said.

The facility improvements should allow Gulf Coast to handle up to 60,000 flats a season compared to its previous capacity of 30,000 flats, Machell said.

The additional cooler space, he said, should be a bonus that helps Gulf Coast handle more cooling for other area growers. Gulf Coast packs berries under its Gulf Sweet label.

Gulf Coast expects to increase its Hillsborough County acreage from its current 500 acres to 600 acres next season. The land expansion comes from some new parcels in former orange groves and land bordering existing farms, said co-owner Joe Goodson.

To continue sales growth, Gulf Coast has also enlarged its sales force.

Scott Brasfield, who has worked in produce sales for 27 years, signed on as a salesman Oct. 22.

Brasfield has worked for companies such as Pero Vegetable Co. LLC, Delray Beach, Fresh America Corp., Arlington, Texas, Western Foods Inc., Little Rock, Ark., and Riverwood Produce, Henderson, N.C.

Patrick Edge became food safety and purchasing manager in late November.

Edge, who has worked primarily in the domestic and international air freight and logistics and property appraising industries, during the early 1990s bought and delivered produce at the Tampa Produce Wholesale Market.

Gulf Coast Produce expands operations, staff
Steve Machell, sales manager for Gulf Coast Produce Inc., Dover, Fla., from left, and Scott Brasfield, salesman, hold some strawberry packs. Gulf Coast plans to increase its cooling capacity and acreage and has brought in new salesmen.