Buurma Farms adds sleeved lettuce, new technologies

Willard, Ohio-based Buurma Farms Inc. will begin shipping green leaf, red leaf, romaine and other varietal lettuces in sleeves this year, said Loren Buurma, co-owner.

The company has shipped celery in sleeves in the past, Buurma said, and added lettuce this year at the request of a customer.

The sleeves, which will ship 24 to a box, have many advantages, Buurma said.

A logo printed on sleeves can show customers the product was locally grown, he said. A scan-able PLU makes the product easier for grocery store clerks to ring up without making errors, and product will be more traceable, with G-10 numbers likely in the future.

Also new at Buurma Farms, the company has added an electro-static sprayer, which charges chemical sprays with an electrical charge opposite to that of the ground, Buurma said.

That yields greater coverage, Buurma said, and requires fewer chemicals.

Buurma Farms also has installed surface air sanitation technology in its plant, Buurma said. The treated air produced through the technology kills bacteria, mold and viruses, he said.

Also new at Buurma Farms, the company has expanded its Georgia growing operation, adding Vidalia onions and sweet corn this year, Buurma said.


Michael Farms adds red and yellow potatoes

For the first time this season, Urbana, Ohio-based Michael Farms Inc. is growing red and yellow potatoes in addition to whites, said Scott Michael, the company’s president.

The company already had sourced reds and yellows through a spin-off company it co-founded in 2008, White Pigeon, Mich.-based Fresh Solutions.

Founded by Michael Farms and potato growers from Michigan, Washington and Pennsylvania, Fresh Solutions packs and distributes potatoes year-round.

In late summer, a bit of a gap opened up in the company’s red and yellow supplies, which made production from Michael Farms a natural fit, Michael said.

Demand for reds and yellows has grown nationwide, particularly in 5-pounders and other smaller packs, he said.

Also, Michael Farms has introduced a new recyclable cabbage box for 2010, Michael said.

The 50-pound brown cardboard box replaces the company’s white cardboard box and is an environmentally friendly alternative for customers who don’t want product in reusable plastic containers, which Michael Farms uses to ship much of its cabbage, Michael said.


Walcher Farms adds 8,000-square-foot building

By July 1, North Fairfield, Ohio-based Doug Walcher Farms hopes to be moved into a new 8,000 square-foot building that will allow the grower-shipper to better maintain the cold chain, said Ken Holthouse, the company’s general manager.

The building is attached to an existing cooler and will prevent product from getting too warm during the packing and loading process, Holthouse said.

“Once the product gets cold, it stays cold,” he said.

The new building will feature three indoor loading docks for outbound product, Holthouse said. Wolcher Farms’s existing docks will be used exclusively for incoming trucks, he said.

In addition to a higher food-safety profile, the building will give Wolcher Farms the opportunity to do tray-wrapping, clamshell-packing and other activities it couldn’t do before, Holthouse said.

Recent growth at the company mandated the addition, which also paves the way for additional growth, Holthouse said.

“From 2003 to 2009 we’ve grown continuously — 5% to 6% per year,” he said. “We were kind of outgrowing ourselves. And we wouldn’t be spending this kind of money to sit still — we hope to continue to grow.”


Wiers Farm Inc. upgrades equipment, adds technology

Willard, Ohio-based Wiers Farm Inc./Dutch Maid has made several equipment upgrades, added a program that better tracks input costs, installed harvest aids and made other changes to gear up for the 2010 season, said Jim Wiers, the company’s president.

Wiers Farm has upgraded its packinghouse, replacing older equipment with stainless-steel equipment. The move is designed to enhance food safety, Wiers said.

The company also has made upgrades to its green onion and pepper lines in time for the 2010 harvest, he said.

The harvest aids installed by the company this year are machines that will carry harvest buckets for workers in the field, Wiers said.

Land.db software installed this year at Wiers Farm will allow the company to input all of its production costs to find efficiencies.