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Georgia growers credit soil for strong crops

By
Keith Loria

Produce in Georgia that display the Georgia Grown label are strong sellers in the state, as consumers know to trust these locally-grown products. 

Duke Lane, one of the partners in the Fort Valley, GA-based Genuine Georgia Group, credits the leadership of the state’s Department of Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and his team for helping Georgia’s farmers survive and thrive by championing this program.

Lane also says Georgia growers do well because many are fifth- and sixth-generation family farmers who are dedicated to doing things the correct way. Plus, Georgia has a soil composition and growing environment that is considered one of the sweetest spots on earth, and its proximity to the Eastern United States keeps the state’s products the freshest in the nation.

Jimmy Carter, sales manager for Colonial Beach, VA-based Parker Farms, noted Georgia is a competitive marketplace because the product is in more hands than it is in Florida.

“In Florida, there tends to be fewer companies that are handling that product, whereas in Georgia there are more companies that are marketing product, so it can become a little bit more competitive,” he said.

Looking at the upcoming season, he’s predicting that Georgia crops will be about a week late overall because there was a lot of rain in the spring.

“It looks like most everybody has overcome that, but we had a cool spell here recently that kind of slowed it down a little bit,” Carter said. “There were some areas of frost, but I didn’t hear any reports of anybody getting knocked out or anything like that. Overall, they’re probably five to seven days behind the normal harvest schedule, but I don’t see any major hiccups.”

Mike Porter, sales representative for the Mills River, NC-based Flavor 1st, is looking forward to the start of the Georgia season this month and noted that customers in the south are interested because the product is fresher and delivered faster than it would be coming from Michigan or New York at this time of year.

“In the spring and fall, everyone in the industry looks to Georgia,” he said. “The Florida deals are ending, Mexico isn’t really going strong, and the stuff up north isn’t going up yet because they need to wait a little longer to get it in the ground.”

Porter believes the quality of beans and squash from Georgia is really strong, and his company has also had great success with grape tomatoes and tomato rounds in the state.

W. Calvert Cullen IV, president of Northampton Growers, based in Cheriton, VA, is about to make way to Georgia as the company prepares to start harvesting on the Eastern Shore.

“Here in Georgia, all the markets are high on everything and we’re able to now sell everything,” he said. “When the pandemic started and we lost all the foodservice business, it was hard to sell off-grade stuff, but we can sell everything now.”

Growing in Georgia has been a key to the company’s success, and Cullen credits the unique soil with getting so much good product.

“The Eastern Shore is surrounded by water with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other, so it has good temperatures and good soil type,” Cullen said. “I was born and raised there. We have a unique window here coming in after Florida is finished and before the Midwest starts, and can grow anything there is on this type of soil.”

 

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