Branch adds lettuce items

Hugh H. Branch Inc., is marketing kale and red bibb lettuce.

The kale and red bibb lettuce joins the South Bay, Fla.-based grower-shipper’s offerings of green leaf lettuce, romaine, boston bibb lettuce, curly and plain parsley and Chinese cabbage.

Customer interest spurred the addition, Dan Shiver, co-owner, said.

Bibb lettuce requires 24 heads to fill a box, he said.

Kale acreage is relatively small but enjoys strong customer demand, Shiver said.

The items are grown and packed from South Florida from early to mid-December through early May.

Florida Sweet Corn Exchange changes name

The Florida Sweet Corn Exchange has changed its name.

The Maitland-based growers organization now calls itself Sunshine Sweet Corn Farmers of Florida.

The success of the industry’s Sunshine Sweet-branded corn prompted the change, said Jason Stemm, vice president of the New York-based Padilla CRT, which does the exchange’s marketing and public relations.

“The growers really wanted to build the Sunshine Sweet brand into their identity,” Stemm said. “They are producing good varieties under that brand, and the sweet corn is selling well. They do a good job handling them once the corn is harvested and getting it to the market quickly so retailers can merchandise it as fresh as possible.”

The group made the change in December.

Duda adds romaine hearts

Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo, Fla.-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., has started shipping romaine hearts.

For the past several years, the grower-shipper had been growing romaine hearts in trial plots and recently narrowed production to the best-performing varieties, said Jason Bedsole, sales manager of eastern vegetables and citrus.

Duda introduced the product during the fall and this season marks the first year of commercial production, he said.

“Demand is very good and has exceeded our expectations,” Bedsole said. “It’s a solid program we’re looking to expand.”

Hearne ships more cabbage in new box

Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC in Wimauma, Fla., plans to increase movement of cabbage in a new bin.

The 24-inch display-ready bin for promoting St. Patrick’s Day cabbage is a heavy-duty bin for easier produce placement, said Jeff Williams, president.

Though the grower-shipper of cabbage and other vegetables has shipped in the bin since 2011, it has seen increased customer interest, and Hearne plans to place more bins in stores, Williams said.

The bins account for about 35% of bulk cabbage shipments, up from 20% last season, he said.

J&J adds green beans, pepper PLU stickers

J&J Family of Farms Inc. is now farming green beans.

The Loxahatchee, Fla.-based grower-shipper planted more than 100 acres of beans on new land near Stuart, Fla.

J&J planned to start harvesting by mid-March, said Brian Rayfield, vice president of business development and marketing.

For bell peppers, J&J recently installed automatic Price Look-Up sticker machinery.

“This will enable us to fulfill some of our customer requests,” Rayfield said. “It will allow us to more efficiently individually apply PLU stickers for bell peppers for existing and new customers. This is important as we try to expand our brand and provide more convenience for our retail partners.”

Mack Farms, McMelon upgrades equipment

Mack Farms Inc. and McMelon Inc. have made some investments in its potato harvesting equipment and watermelon packing operations.

In late February, the Lake Wales, Fla.-based grower-shipper was installing a watermelon sorting line.

The machinery will help increase watermelon packing efficiencies and volume and help save on labor, said Chandler Mack, vice president of operations.

The watermelon sorting line is expected to be ready for harvest by late April.

To improve its potato harvesting, Mack Farms installed equipment that harvests and handles potatoes in a gentler and more efficient manner, Mack said.

The equipment can dig six rows of potatoes versus the four rows previous equipment harvested and should also increase harvesting volume for its red, white and yellow potatoes, he said.

The company also was going some minor upgrades on its packing line to improve volume and sizings, Mack said.

Additionally, Mack and McMelon added Doug Miller as a salesman to handle mostly watermelons.

A longtime sales veteran, Miller formerly worked for Lipman, Immokalee, Fla., and was also in blueberry sales.

Southern Corporate Packers adds acreage

Southern Corporate Packers Inc., Immokalee, Fla., has increased its watermelon acreage.

Though Brian Arrigo, president, declined to state acreage, the grower-shipper expanded South, central and north Florida plantings by 300%.

It increased acreage on seedless and miniature melons, he said.

Southern Corporate grows and ships watermelon from Florida, Georgia, Delaware, Indiana and southern Ontario, Canada.