STEP-UPP class tours South Carolina
The Southeast Produce Council's 2023 STEP-UPP class toured five farms in South Carolina in mid-April to learn more about the farming aspect of fresh produce while helping to build and strengthen relationships between buyers and sellers.
The 10 members of the class were Joel Cotrell of Harps Food Stores, Michael Galloway of The Giant Co., Tyler Gibson of Food City, Logan Hamburg of Markon Cooperative, Matt Harrison of Lowes Foods, Nicole Nelson of Merchants Distributors LLC, Kyle Palmer of U.S. Foods, Heather Smeeton of Blue Apron, Josh Smith of Corner Market and Anthony DiFranco of KJ's Market.
The Southeast Training & Educational Program for Upcoming Produce Professionals is co-chaired by Mike Roberts, vice president of produce operations at Harps Food Stores Inc., who is also the current vice chairman of the council's board of directors; and Gary Baker, senior director of fresh at Merchants Distributors LLC, who is also a member of the council's board of directors. Joining them on the tour was Faye Westfall, vice president of Southeast Produce Weekly and a member of the council's Board of Governors. Out of respect and admiration for her ongoing dedication to the STEP-UPP program, which she chaired for many years, the SEPC lists her as the program's "den mother."
After the group gathered for dinner Tuesday night, April 18, the tour got underway Wednesday morning at Titan Farms in Ridge Spring, SC, where the group saw peaches, broccoli and Bell peppers, and saw packing and processing in action at the company's facility.
The next stop was Walter P. Rawl & Sons in Pelion, SC, to see the company's fields and get a tour of the processing facility.
On Thursday, the group visited Coosaw Farms in Fairfax, SC, to see blueberries, blackberries and watermelons. Then at McIntyre Produce in Columbia, SC, the group toured the processing plant, which features an extensive food-safety program.
On Friday, the final day, the group visited City Roots in Columbia, SC, where the group saw the company's micro greens being grown and harvested as well as a new facility currently under construction. The group also heard a presentation from Hugh E. Weathers, South Carolina's longtime commissioner of agriculture.
The next trip for the STEP-UPP class is scheduled to take place in June to visit farms in south Georgia.
Applications for the 2024 STEP-UPP class are currently being accepted. For more information, please visit the council's website (seproducecouncil.com) or call 478/982-4411.
The STEP-UPP class at Titan Farms with (kneeling, center) Katie Rees, market development director at the South Carolina Department of Agriculture; flanked by Mike Roberts and Gary Baker, who co-chair the STEP-UPP program. Standing at far right: Faye Westfall, who chaired the STEP-UPP program for many years; and David Sherrod, president and CEO of the Southeast Produce Council.