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R.C. Hatton grateful for American people stepping up to the plate

By
Keith Loria

Spring was a difficult time for R.C. Hatton Inc., as the company had to destroy a lot of crops like other farmers did, because the foodservice industry had shut down for the most part. But by summer, things seemed to be turning the corner.

“By June, it seemed the American people stepped up to the plate and now are taking up a lot of the slack from the foodservice through the grocery stores,” said Paul Allen, vice president and co-owner of Pahokee, FL-based R.C. Hatton Inc. “We are extremely grateful for it.”

Another thing that made it rough early in the pandemic was the produce coming across the border, which made it difficult for American growers.

“I’m grateful to see the American people start to buy more American produce than the foreign produce in the stores now,” Allen said.

He’s also impressed with how his team stepped up when calls and emails came in about what was going on with questions about why the company was having to destroy food, and he noted they went “above and beyond the call of duty.”

The company’s produce is distributed nationwide through its longstanding partnership with Hugh Branch Inc. of South Bay, FL. Much of its corn is marketed in tray packs under the Branch — A Family of Farms/ Gourmet Extra Sweet brand throughout the Publix Super Markets chain.

“They have been our marketing agent for decades,” Allen said. “Our tray pack has really taken off at Publix and they are a good partner to have.”

The sweet corn business has been strong so far this year and the company has done its best to keep up with the rising demand and continues to grow the category.

R.C. Hatton started in the retail cabbage space last year and is expanding on the program in 2020. The cabbages are being sold by Hugh Branch Inc., and are marketed under the new GraceLynn brand, named in honor of Allen’s granddaughters, Grace and Lynn.

“My son Jonathan is over that space,” Allen said. “It was tough for the category coming through the pandemic, but we’ve been in business for a long time and we’re not going to make decisions based on one year. We’re going to continue to grow cabbage.”

R.C. Hatton made the decision to get into cabbage thanks to the encouragement of Hugh Branch.

The company is also a long-time grower of green beans and has increased its acreage this year.

“We like that space and have been in it for a long time,” Allen said. “Our food service sector is big and the retail sector is big as well. That’s given us reason to increase that acreage.”

Harvesting has begun in South Georgia and the green bean crop looks solid so far. In Florida, heavy rains have kept the growers from putting too much in the ground in late October, but up until that point, all three crops (cabbage, corn and green beans) were looking great.

“We’re doing really good and continue to try and grow our market base,” Allen said. “We’re increasing acreages in Florida and Georgia, both owned and leased.”

Looking toward 2021, Allen doesn’t expect to change a whole lot, and noted that American farmers must continue to supply the American people with food and he thanks the administration for helping farmers get through the pandemic.

 

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