Flavor 1st has Georgia on its mind
Flavor 1st Growers & Packers, which supplies customers up and down the East Coast and east of the Mississippi, has deep roots in the produce industry.
Mountain Bean Growers Inc., one of the largest production operations in Western North Carolina, heads up the company’s farming operations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia.
“We’re growing tomatoes and vegetables in Georgia and North Florida, which bridges the gap,” said Mike Porter, sales representative for the Mills River, NC-based company. “We’re doing all the dry-veg items — beans, squash, Bell peppers, cucumbers —in Georgia, and also doing grape tomatoes and round tomatoes.”
The company’s Georgia deal is with Dan King Farms, and Flavor 1st has two guys on site that do the actual sales out of the building —Wayne Mertens and Donnie Dulevich.
“We’re one of the few that can say we have Georgia Grown produce from May 15 until Oct. 15,” Porter said. “In addition to Dan King Farms, we have another grower in Osage Farms, in Dillard GA, that farms all summer with beans squash, cabbage and tomatoes. This helps us for a longer season.”
Flavor 1st has a great local deal with retailers in the state throughout the summer months. For the upcoming season, on cucumbers and peppers, it was wet early and there was a hard time getting plastic laid, so both are a little bit behind schedule. Porter expects them to be a little tight during the first week of the Georgia deal.
“I think squash and beans will also be a little tight, but not because of rainy weather at the beginning, but more from the recent cooler weather,” he said. “We had a little bit of a frost, so we had some burns on the top of the bush, with the beans and squash plants getting a little frostbite on the top, so that will slow them down.”
That will most likely mean both commodities will be tight at the beginning, but then should be really good the rest of the season.
With things opening back up, Flavor 1st expects chain stores will not need as much product as people start eating out again, but Porter doesn’t anticipate doing much different in 2021. One difference is returning to a former crop.
“Last year we did not grow grape tomatoes or round tomatoes at Dan King’s place, but we did it a couple of years ago and took a couple of years off, but now we’re back so that’s kind of our reboot in Georgia,” Porter said.
Porter recently returned from the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure show, which he described as “good but different” but he was just happy to be face-to-face with people for the first time in a long time.
“Things have been a little tough with all the Zoom meetings and you can’t go visit customers, and they can’t come to the farm level like they used to, so it’s been somewhat difficult to have those personal connections that we used to have,” Porter said. “With SEPC, it was kind of great to get back out and maybe start moving in the direction of maybe visiting key customers and other growers.”