Van Solkema Produce adds experienced team to operations
The Van Solkema family, the fifth-generation growers and shippers behind Van Solkema Produce, have been in the produce industry for more than 117 years. The company operates in the growing regions of Glennville, GA, Moultrie, GA and its home base of Byron Center, MI.
The company offers a variety of items packed in the Oh Boy brand, including beets, peppers, cabbage, sweet corn and Vidalia onions. Gary Lyons, a sales associate for the company, has been involved in the Michigan produce scene for more than 40 years, dating back to his father being in the wholesale produce distribution business. Back then, Gerald Van Solkema, who retired in 1990, traded back and forth with the senior Lyons.
Last November, Lyons entered into a partnership with Todd Van Solkema, who has been active owner of Van Solkema Produce since 2019. His company merged into Van Solkema Produce of Georgia.
“The partnership included my team, as we continue to service retail and foodservice customers with an expanded commodity offerings from more production areas,” Lyons said. “Our goal is to build on the youth in our organization forming a team, building relationships and offering value for numerous products we can consolidate at our facility. The more efficiencies we can offer, the better profitability our customers will achieve.”
In 2022, Lyons has seen a steady business atmosphere with more of an upward trend around foodservice business, which he attributed as a direct effect from COVID-19-related scenarios. “We are mainly retail, and I believe the strengths lie within the relational nature of which we pursue our business. I strongly believe in real talking relationships,” Lyons said.
This year, the crops are a little behind, yet are looking good for quality purposes. “Most of the escalated costs are attributed to freight cost,” he said. Having worked in Michigan for decades, Lyons is quick to point out it’s many attributes to the produce industry, noting it has the ability for reacting quickly to needs with solutions for stronger inventory controls and quality controls. That has helped the company stay successful.
“Our customer base is located mostly in the western Michigan area and the consolidation services we offer coincide with customers we service,” Lyons said. “Our growth initiative would be using the strength of local partnerships Van Solkema has had with local growers over numerous years offering those products to the customer base we now have.”
While the company deals with labor issues at the distribution level, it is combating that the best it can by employing receiving efficiencies with more effort on inventory turns with more frequent deliveries. “One aspect I see heading into the future is the role transportation is having on many of the items we represent,” Lyons said. “We have an office in Nogales, yet the cost savings of routing more products through the Texas Valley may be need to be used more in the coming next year of the Mexican season. LTL’s are getting very costly, so the more we can use full-load commodity options, the more we can offer cost saving to our customers.”