Fresh Link Consolidation enters sweet potatoes

Lake Park, Ga.-based Fresh Link Consolidation LLC, formerly Blackwater Produce LLC, the sales agent for Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., is entering sweet potato production.

Coggins Farm plans to increase acreage this summer after running a test plot last season, said Harry Sheaffer, Fresh Link’s vice president.

“It went well last year,” Sheaffer said.

“We had a lot of interest in them. Going forward, having more acreage will let us extend the season and pick up more year-round business and be able to utilize more of our own product,” he said.

“Sweet potatoes make for a good mixer item with the carrots we sell.”

Coggins plans to begin harvesting in August and curing in September, selling product through the winter, Sheaffer said.

J&S Produce expands green bean acreage

J&S Produce Inc., Mount Vernon, Ga., expanded green bean production.

Though its growers long planted KY beans, the market became flooded with the variety and the growers reduced acreage, said president and co-owner Joey Johnson.

He said one grower stopped growing waxed beans.

Customer requests, however, prompted some to plant a small amount of waxed, KY and cranberry beans, Johnson said.

J&S’ growers grow about 30 acres each of waxed and KY beans and about 400 acres of green beans.

In all, J&S’ growers increased green bean acreage by about 15%, Johnson said.

L&M installs coolers for fruit offerings

Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. has installed cooling facilities for watermelon and cantaloupe at its Moultrie, Ga., operations.

The grower-shipper added 8,000 square feet of refrigeration.

The improvements include sealing dock doors and allow for improved precooling, storing and loading of the fruit, said Adam Lytch, operations manager.

The changes follow improvements L&M made to its vegetable packing shed last year.

The upgrades mean L&M, which completed the changes during the fall, packs from sealed loading docks that prevent breakage of the cold chain from its Immokalee, Fla., Palatka, Fla., and Moultrie operations, Lytch said.

South Georgia markets with Manwell Produce

Manwell Produce Inc., Valdosta, Ga., is now marketing for South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park, Ga.

Manwell began selling South Georgia’s green beans, bell peppers, squash, cucumbers and eggplant last spring, said Shannon Vickers, Manwell Produce’s salesman and quality control manager.

Manwell’s owner, Chris Manwell, used to sell for South Georgia before starting Manwell Produce in 2004, Vickers said.

Manwell and Vickers have sold Georgia produce since 1994, Vickers said.

Manwell is a brokerage that represents South Georgia as well as brokering and consolidating for others, Vickers said.

Southern Valley expands packinghouse

Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga., has constructed a 100,000-square-foot facility.

The all-refrigerated area adds to the grower-shipper’s cooling and storage capacity and should help improve packing and supply chain capabilities, said Jon Schwalls, director of operations.

Additionally, Southern Valley added a 25,000-square-foot refrigerated repacking facility for value-added packs.

Like the other addition, the value-added facility is a separate building connected to the main facility.

The grower-shipper also installed 13 refrigerated shipping docks.

Southern Valley previously worked from 16,000 square feet, he said.

“It will give us the ability to move product faster through the facility,” Schwalls said.

“That faster flow of product through our facility will give us increased shelf life. It will also give us the ability to do more consolidation as well as cross-docking.”