Coggins Farm starts its own sales arm

Coggins Farm and Produce Inc., Lake Park, Ga., which has long been the biggest grower-shipper for sales agent Marker 29 Produce Inc., Onancock, Va., has ended its sales agreement with Marker 29 and has started its own sales agency.

Business updates: Georgia Produce

In February, two former Marker 29 salesmen helped form a new sales organization for Coggins Farm.

Harry Sheaffer and Steve Sterling, who used to sell vegetables grown by Coggins, along with Coggins’ principals, started Blackwater Produce LLC, Lake Park.

Sheaffer said Blackwater, a separate company that sells bell peppers, cucumbers, squash and carrots that Marker 29 marketed, makes for a new start and a reorganization of Coggins’ sales.

“The vegetable deal has been kind of tough on the growing end during the last couple of years,” Sheaffer said. “This is a way to save some money and try to keep up to date with everything, especially the food safety issues. The start of this organization is a way to have everyone on the same team and make sure we are all looking out for each other and communicating better.”

Blackwater plans to market under its Blackwater label.

Coggins is Blackwater’s primary grower, though the operation also plans to sell for some new growers.


Georgia Vegetable expands Tennessee deal

Georgia Vegetable Co. Inc., Tifton, is expanding its Tennessee operations.

Last fall, the grower-shipper began handling sales for growers of cucumbers and crookneck squash from Cleveland, Tenn., and growers of snap beans from Crossville, Tenn.

This spring, Georgia Vegetable is working with a Tennessee grower who produces green beans, bell peppers, eggplant and specialty peppers, said Shay Kennedy, co-owner, vice president and sales manager.

The deal has Georgia Vegetable handling sales for the growers who have their own packing facilities, she said.

“This expansion is good for us in that once we start in Georgia, we will be able to continue shipping through the summer months out of Tennessee,” she said.

Typically, Tennessee starts shipping vegetables in July after Georgia production ends. Production normally ends in early September, before Georgia’s fall deals begin in late September.

Georgia Vegetable has also started shipping sweet corn from south Georgia.


J&S recovers from packinghouse fire

J&S Produce Inc. has moved back into a packinghouse that fire destroyed in June 2009.

In February, Mount Vernon, Ga.-based J&S moved into the operation that caught fire after a worker accidentally ignited some pallets, causing $900,000 in losses to the company’s offices and packing facilities.

Joey Johnson, J&S’ president, said rebuilding took eight months.

The company, which packs for growers, reconfigured its building Though the square footage remains the same, the new operation has more cooler space, he said.

The operation includes padded doors for trailer loading in controlled atmosphere for better keeping the cold chain intact, Johnson said.

After the fire, J&S people packed out of an adjacent onion packing shed owned by Bland Farms Inc., Glennville, Ga.

J&S is a packer and growers’ agent that packs green beans, cucumbers and squash.


South Georgia Produce begins green beans

South Georgia Produce Inc., Lake Park, plans to begin shipping green beans this season.

The grower-shipper has finished constructing a green bean packing line addition to its south Georgia packinghouse.

“This is something that we have been looking at for the past five to six years,” said Steven Johnson, salesman. “Though we have serviced a lot of bean business before, this just made sense. This addition should give us as much diversity of product as anyone in Georgia.”

South Georgia packs primarily for grower owners David Corbett and Violet Corbett.

South Georgia plans to begin harvesting in early May.

(Note on correction: This story originally incorrectly stated  the ownership of the company in the fourth paragraph).

Southern Valley implements PTI

Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc., Norman Park, Ga., plans to fully implement Produce Traceability Initiative procedures at the start of this season.

Jon Schwalls, director of operations, said the grower-shipper began testing the system as a pilot program in November but plans to fully integrate it with its operations this season.

“We are definitely ahead of the curve on it and are ahead of schedule in the timeline that has been set down,” Schwalls said.