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L&M bullish on Bell peppers

By
Keith Loria

L&M Cos. executes a 52-week green Bell pepper program.

“We are proud of our offerings in that we farm in a lot of the windows our competition does not,” said Jon Shriver, sales and operations manager for the Raleigh, NC-based company. “This makes fresh and new crops more available to our retail, wholesale and foodservice partners. We also overlap in multiple regions so that when Mother Nature comes into play, we don’t have all of our eggs in one basket.”

As L&M Farms, the company has been farming in East Palatka, FL, for more than 30 years, with Bell pepper always one of its staples.

“We are always looking for new and innovative methods to make L&M our customers’ first choice when they are looking for Bells,” Shriver said. “We feel that one of the keys to success is consistency. We don’t want our customers to ever have to worry about where the product is coming from. Our program is designed so that we can deliver quality Bell pepper anytime throughout the year.”

Since the pandemic began, for the most part, it’s been business as usual at L&M.

“We all know that in the beginning of this pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty and unchartered territory,” Shriver said. “As a company, we stayed focused on taking care of our customers and our farms. We had to implement some different work practices, and we are thrilled with how well everyone has reacted and adapted. The passion the people at L&M have for what we do in this business has been truly amazing.”

L&M has been working with the USDA on the Produce Box program and as of June 9, has supplied more than 100,000 boxes of fresh produce to the Florida and Mid-Atlantic regions in need. This, Shriver noted, has really given the company a direct connection to those communities, and has been fulfilling all around.

The Bell pepper crops are currently running two weeks behind due to a cool spring, but Shriver said the crops are looking great and he expected to be harvesting in North Carolina around June 25, then in New Jersey around July 15.

“It’s no secret that rains in Georgia are going to be an obstacle. However, we are still on track to have a seamless program all the way through the summer,” Shriver said. “We have upped our acreage in New Jersey significantly this year, and are very excited about that program. We keep getting stronger and stronger every season, and are proud to have L&M as a true player in the local deal. We feel that being able to tell our customers what we are going to have and when as far as six months out, really shows them some value.”

One of the greater challenges recently has been judging demand. He explained that early on, there was a spike in retail that felt like it came out of nowhere. Then the retail pulls disappeared for about two weeks.

“As the retail began to level out a bit, then the food service demand disappeared,” Shriver said. “These ups and downs make sense in hindsight, but trying to maneuver through them in real time was challenging.”

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