Orrin H. Cope Produce sells packing operations

Leaving the packing and shipping end of the business, Orrin H. Cope Produce Inc. has sold its packing operations and has transitioned the more than 30-year-old company into a growers’ sales agency.

The Homestead, Fla.-based Cope in 2008 sold its packinghouse located in the Naranja, Fla., area northeast of Homestead to a developer who tore down the facility and built a self-storage operation on the property.

Orrin Cope, president, said the facility required many upgrades and that he was experiencing many problems at that location, such as theft of copper out of refrigeration units.

Cope, who sells squash for Strano Farms, Homestead, and green beans for Florida City Packers, Florida City, said he retained most of his past customers.

“The deal down here has gotten a lot smaller as farm land is disappearing,” he said. “We just felt like the best thing for us to do is to sell our location and rent for however long we plan to be in business.”

While Cope has pulled out of the south Florida packing deal, it has opened a packing operation in Tifton, Ga.

Cope last year leased a facility formerly operated by a defunct packing operation.

Cope also packs and sells beans and squash from north Florida in Santa Fe, Fla.

Dundee Citrus enters gift fruit deal

The Dundee Citrus Growers Association, Dundee, Fla., has entered the gift fruit business.

Though it has long packed fruit for fundraising programs, this year is the first year the operation has offered gift fruit, said Al Finch, vice president of sales and marketing for Lake Hamilton, Fla.-based Diversified Citrus Marketing, Dundee’s marketing arm.

“We were wondering how well a gift fruit program and a fundraising program we had with the schools would go this year, and were kind of surprised given the economic conditions,” he said. “But we have had a successful season.”

Diversified sells red grapefruit, honey tangerines and valencia oranges through its dundeecitrus.com Web site.

Dundee began gift fruit sales last fall.

Hearne adds cabbage, berry precoolers

Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, Fla., has installed a new precooling facility for its cabbage.

The grower-shipper in October opened a 20,000-square-foot facility near Parrish, Fla., to more efficiently handle its cabbage after picking.

Being only two miles from Interstate 75, the new facility is closer to the major highway than the packing and cooling Hearne used to do on cabbage at its Wimauma operations east of Sun City, Fla., said Tony Piedimonte, co-owner.

“We are maintaining a closer and tighter cold chain on cabbage, which gets packed and cooled immediately after picking,” Piedimonte said.

The modern operation should also reduce trucking time from the field to the packinghouse, he said.

Piedimonte declined to state the cost of the installation but said it involved a substantial investment.

At its Wimauma headquarters, Hearne installed a forced-air cooler for its strawberries. Hearne added the cooling last summer.

J&J starts watermelon shipping
J&J Produce Inc., Loxahatchee, Fla., is entering the spring watermelon deal.

The grower-shipper plans to begin south Florida production at the end of April with volume running through May before Georgia begins production, said Brian Rayfield, vice president of sales and marketing.

L&M increases potato acreage

Helping extend its north Florida summer shipping window, L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., has increased its north Florida potato plantings.

The plantings in Live Oak, Fla., are expected to increase the grower-shipper’s volume to record levels, said Adam Lytch, operations manager.

The new growing region, located about 75 miles northwest of its Bunnell and Palatka north Florida growing regions, should help L&M extend its season from late June into early July.

“We can go a little longer there as it doesn’t get quite as hot as fast,” he said.

Six L’s Packing Co. enters bean deal
Six L’s Packing Co. Inc., Immokalee, Fla., has entered the green bean deal.

The grower-shipper of tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and potatoes has a couple hundred acres of production in Palm Beach County through a packing partnership with R.C. Hatton Farms, Pahokee, Fla.

The beans deal attracted the interest of the owners of the Lipman Family Cos., which owns Six L’s and Custom Pak, for several reasons.

“Growing beans is a relatively quick crop,” said Gerry Odell, Lipman’s chief operating officer of farming and packing. “For a company used to spending the kind of money we have to spend per-acre on tomatoes and peppers, beans are a relatively small investment on a per-acre basis. If you lose money or make money, you will do it in 60 days.”

Southern Corporate Packers increases melon packings

Florida Spring Produce: Business updates

Courtesy Southern Corporate Packers

Southern Corporate Packers Inc., Immokalee, Fla., is increasing handling more watermelon at its Canadian distribution center.

The grower-shipper is using the Toronto distribution center as a repacking facility, which repacks Florida and other eastern U.S.-grown produce such as bell pepper, cucumbers, eggplant and squash, said Brian Arrigo, president.

Southern Corporate Packers sends bulk loads of watermelon to the operation and also packs for Canadian growers.

The company took over the warehouse three years ago.

Sy Katz relocates its Georgia office
Boone, N.C.-based Sy Katz Produce Inc., which is active in Florida spring produce deals, has moved its Georgia office into the Coggins Farms facility in Lake Park, Ga., and will ship from there, Owen Margolis, president, said in an e-mail.

“It’s a very modern and efficient facility. We look forward to a long-lasting relationship with the Coggins family, which has a long reputation of respectability,” Margolis said.

Sy Katz is not selling Coggins’ crop but Coggins is receiving and shipping Sy Katz product there, Margolis said.