Vick Family Farms adding new facilities
Vick Family Farms has been growing, packaging and shipping sweet potatoes in eastern North Carolina since the early 80s and supplies sweet potatoes to customers both domestic and international year-round.
“We offer private label and are known for Carolina Gold labels in a variety of packs,” said Charlotte Vick, partner/sales and marketing manager for the Wilson, NC-based company.
Vick Family Farms recently celebrated 48 years in business and has been a part of growing the sweet potato industry in the state. The company’s founder, the late Jerome Vick, was one of the founders of the NC Sweetpotato Commission, served on the board and was a past chairman of the board.
The Vick Family also contributed to the Henry Covington Research Endowment at NC State and the NC Plant Science Initiative.
Jerome Vick was always at the forefront of technology that would improve the sweet potato quality and grow the category worldwide. Today, son Linwood Vick serves on the commission board while daughter Charlotte sits on the marketing committee and the American Sweet Potato Marketing Institute Board.
The Vicks produce and market more than 1 million bushels of sweet potatoes annually.
“Consistency, communication, quality, customer service and sustainability are all a part of the qualities it takes to be successful in the sweet potato industry — or any produce industry,” Vick said.
2022 produced a big crop of sweet potatoes, however, the crop was short on the tail end of the season. Vick Family Farms just completed packing the 2022 crop and switched to the 2023 crop in mid-September.
“Acres for North Carolina are not official, but appear to be reduced by about 15 percent,” Vick said. “Our acres on our farm remain constant in order to service our retail accounts year-round. For our area — Wilson and Nash counties — it has been extremely hot and dry which sometimes can reduce yields. We expect an average crop in bushels, however, what has been harvested the last three weeks is very good quality.”
With about 6-7 weeks of harvest remaining, Vick Family Farms has begun to receive some rainfall that should help improve yields over the next few weeks.
“Consumers could potentially expect some shortages in availability across the U.S. in late spring or summer of 2024 based on conversations with other grower/packer/shippers,” Vick said.
Vick Family Farms services a variety of foodservice, retail, and wholesale customers, plus have contracts with processors both in the U.S. and the EU.
“Our business partnerships are strong, and communication is key,” Vick said. “My dad believed in doing business on a handshake and that your word was as good as any contract written. We are committed to building strong, lasting relationships and we know together we can do more than any of us alone. It is a partnership that has to be sustainable on both ends in order to be successful.”
Vick Family Farms is adding additional warehouse and cooler facilities and additional value- added packaging equipment to be completed in late-October.
“We are excited about our growth,” Vick said. “These plans have been in the making since 2020 but due to COVID-19, were put on hold until earlier this year. The equipment will assist in shorter lead times and a reduction in labor expense and packaging costs.”
Also, Zeke Ferrell, Charlotte’s son has now joined the business after graduation from NC State last December with a General Ag degree. He has been training in all aspects of the business including packing, growing and most recently receiving and inventory management.
“We are happy to have Zeke as part of our team,” Vick said. “Zeke was the last of his siblings to return back to the family business as he joins his oldest sister Hannah Jones (HR and food safety), Grayson Ferrell (labor manager) and Eli Ferrell (warehouse and shipping manager).”
Photo: Zeke Ferrell, Hannah Jones, Grayson Ferrell and Eli Ferrell.