Turek Farms, Cayuga Produce says SEPC puts on a show
Circled on the calendar, Turek Farms has been counting down the days to the Southeast Produce Council’s Southern Exposure.
“It’s one of my favorite shows to attend,” said Jason Turek, a partner at King Ferry, NY-based Turek Farms, and its marketing company Cayuga Produce. “SEPC does such a great job of playing host and getting so many retailers, wholesale and foodservice people in the room,” said Turek.
Cayuga Produce has a year-round vegetable program, historically sought out for its sweet corn, the company now leverages a diverse portfolio including broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, pumpkins and winter squash.
“This time of year we’re marketing corn and cabbage as part owners with S.M. Jones,” Turek said of the partnership with Florida-based S.M. Jones & Co. “We then migrate our way into Georgia and then to New York.” Together the group is one of the largest grower-owned operations on the East Coast.
“Our message to retailers this year is, we’re always looking to find opportunities that are going to help them grow and us grow,” said Turek. “Most of our customers we’ve had for decades, we’re in the business of fostering long-term relationships that grow into trusted partnerships.”
Turek noted they have a number of meetings set up around the show, “We’re meeting with some new customers, who have asked us to grow some really unique items for them. I probably see 75 percent of the people we do business with in those two or three days, and rather than chasing everyone around the country it’s nice to catch them in the lobby, at the pool bar, or on the trade show floor — SEPC sets the table for a hospitable and relaxed atmosphere.”
As to the prospects of any meetings, Turek emphasized a steady and strategic plan. “When someone asks us, we don’t say no to an opportunity to grow something new, particularly if there’s a need for it, but we will very seldom put something into our rotation with only a hope that we will sell it later.”
If the last few years have proved anything, Turek has learned there’s wisdom in being strategic instead of reactively chasing a market impulse.
“We’ve felt the whole range of emotions over those years, we went from locking up the brakes during the height of COVID-19, not knowing what we were going to sell, to then selling out of everything, and realizing we could’ve done more. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, things change,” he said.
“Certain challenges have actually helped us,” said Turek, who noted the increase in freight has opened up new opportunities for them on the east coast, lending the company a new edge over growers and shippers from the West Coast and Mexico.