Flavor 1st continuing strong farming tradition in North Carolina
Flavor 1st Growers & Packers, which grows and packs more than 30 different varieties of produce from its Mills River, NC location, has recently started harvesting in South Georgia, and is looking forward to a successful Georgia growing season.
In its home state of North Carolina, the company has vegetable plantings in the ground, down off the mountain and in the mountain valleys. It is prepping the ground and getting plastic pulled, laying the framework to start dropping plants in the ground, to get it off and running toward a successful summer.
“Both 2021 and early 2022 were strong from a business standpoint,” said Seth Grant, who works sales for the company. “Last year saw business carry over from strong demand during the pandemic, and early 2022 was very busy, as it always is around the beginning of the year. People are eating healthy with New Year’s resolutions, and we typically see demand go up during the first couple months of every year. This held true in the early months of 2022.”
The family-based company has a long history in North Carolina, having farmed in the fertile mountain valleys of western North Carolina for eight generations, dating back to the late 1700s.
“Many of our team members grew up in and around produce and agriculture in this area, so it’s in our blood,” Grant said.
Recently, the company has updated some of its equipment lines in the main packinghouse in North Carolina in order to help increase its efficiencies and put out a better end-product for customers. Grant sees this as a way to increase the ability to produce more packages during the day, leading to more opportunities for growth.
“Our biggest challenges right now at the packinghouse are increased material prices, and increased freight, and I’m not talking small amounts,” he said. “We are looking at 30-40 percent increases on most materials, with increases coming every three months. At farm level, we are dealing with increased material prices, increased fuel costs, and doubled fertilizer costs. All costs are going through the roof. We are really trying to be diligent and efficient in everything that we do, from the farm level to the packinghouse to logistics.”
That being said, the company is very proud of how it managed through the many challenges of COVID-19 without sacrificing on the level of service to its partners or the quality of product to the consumers.
“There were so many challenges that we’ve never dealt with before,” Grant said. “Everything from material shortages, increased costs, truck driver shortages, virus outbreaks, fuel spikes, fertilizer spikes. Everything combined into one, and our team took the challenge head on and maintained focus through a very tough time.”
The secret to its strong retail partnerships, Grant noted, is communication.
“With all of the uncertainties that we deal with in produce, unexpected issues do happen,” he said. “The key to maintaining strong partnerships is constant communication from plantings all the way through delivery.”
Looking ahead, Flavor 1st is projecting business to stay strong for the rest of 2022 and especially looking forward to a successful summer.
“Local programs tend to trend during the summer growing season, and we are looking forward to our local programs we have lined up,” Grant said. “Veg items have already started in South Georgia, with quality looking good so far. Beans and pepper have been tight, as they were affected from the March frost. Tomatoes will start around the end of May, as the early plantings were damaged by the same March frost. We are expecting tomato quality to be good this season once they get going.”
Elsewhere around Flavor 1st, the company has moved forward in testing some of its eco-friendly packaging options.
“We hope to have some of these materials in production in late spring or early summer, which will be exciting,” Grant said. “Any time we can reduce our carbon footprint and increase sustainability, that is something that we get excited about, and something that we think customers want.”