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Sixth generation stepping up at Smith’s Farm

With its sights set on expanding its offerings and increasing its foodservice business, the sixth generation of Smith’s Farm Inc. is assuming a larger leadership role at the company.

Tara Smith Vighetti, along with sister Emily Smith and cousin Zach Smith, represent the broccoli and cauliflower grower’s sixth generation, which will be taking a more active role in running the company.

KL4 6568-129a previewSmith’s Farm executives (l-r) Greg Smith, Tara Smith Vighetti, Emily Smith, Lance Smith and Zach Smith. Greg Smith died last year and his cousin, Lance, who had served as president and chief executive officer, is ascending to the role of chairman to make way for the sixth generation to assume day-to-day control of the company.Smith Vighetti succeeds her father Lance Smith as president and CEO of Smith Packing Inc., the sales arm of the Smith farming operations, in 2018. Emily Smith has been at the helm of Smith Farms Inc., the production company based in Maine, as president and chief executive officer since 2015. Zach Smith, a partner and chief operating officer of Smith Farms Inc., provides leadership in land management, conservation and sustainability, as well as strategy and innovation in farming practices across the Smith’s broadening eastern growing operations.  

Company patriarch Lance Smith will remain as chairman, but will cede day-to-day operations to his daughters and cousin, said Smith Vighetti, who added, “Dad will still be involved as chairman and continue to contribute in constructing strategies for growth and executive management oversight, but he will also start to take some more time away to enjoy his family and his love of fly fishing for Atlantic salmon.”

Smith Vighetti asserts they are well situated for this move and are very fortunate as family members and partners to have complementary gifts, education and experience to contribute. “We have been so fortunate to have the foundational strength built by our fathers, Lance Smith and the late Greg Smith,” said Smith Vighetti. “It is not lost on us the responsibility we have to not just continue but contribute something positive to a legacy that is more than a half-century old.”

Smith Vighetti added, “Emily and Zach are amazing growers and have perfected growing broccoli in various climates. They constantly trial new varieties to see what works best, which is a huge advantage for our customers. There is a lot more competition with broccoli and cauliflower on the East Coast, with more companies attempting to grow it. But some are finding that it is not as easy as it looks, so we really stand out because of our experience.”

Smith Vighetti said the company has expanded its cauliflower production and it has innovated new shrink-wrap items for retail and meal kit solutions.

“Our goal is to stay competitive and innovative in the marketplace,” she said. “We are also interested in being more innovative in the foodservice realm, including a new in-field floret program that we are looking to launch this summer. These moves are in partnership with our longstanding retail and foodservice customers that have requested them.”

With farms in Maine and Florida, Smith’s Farm supplies the East Coast throughout the year with fresh product mostly on a delivered basis. This is advantageous to its customers, given the huge spike in freight rates due to the new electronic data logging requirements that were recently implemented for transportation companies, according to Smith Vighetti. Handling delivery offers a strong competitive advantage in the current climate, where Smith’s Farm is able to leverage its reputation and relationships with its transportation partners to take the logistics piece off the plate of the retailer.  

“During eastern gaps when we are shipping from the west it can be difficult to procure trucks with the tight transportation market,” she said. “But during high-volume times in the east, especially summers in Maine, we’ve invested heavily in maintaining excellent relationships with our freight providers, so our freight is consistently covered even during times of extreme shortages.”

Aside from transportation, labor is another challenge that Smith’s Farm faces, and as such, Smith Vighetti said the company is anxiously awaiting the outcome of the immigration reform issue.

Smith’s Farm will be exhibitng at Booth No. 330 during Southern Exposure 2018 in Tampa, FL, March 1-3.