Nash Produce anticipates big crop in 2024
Nash Produce originated in 1977 as a large farming and produce packing/shipping operation focused on cucumbers but in 2006, a collection of local growers saw the need for a packing facility, which led to the purchase of Nash Produce. Over the past 44 years, the company has transitioned away from cucumbers to a more singular focus on sweet potatoes.
Today, Nash Produce has dedicated itself to growing sweet potatoes and has become a leading supplier out of its farm in Nashville, NC. After a couple of years of some troubling crop sizes, things look much better for 2024.
“We are anticipating a big crop out of 2024,” said Thomas Joyner, president of Nash Produce. “The industry cut back and we cut back our crop on pricing for the past two years, so this year we increased our acreage.”
The export market was what impacting Nash Produce—and the industry—the past two years.
“It took a little bit of time to get our crop size right-sized,” Joyner said. “The good thing is that retailers stepped up and increased prices, so there’s profit to be made. From a farming perspective, there has not been very much money the last couple of years because it’s an expensive crop to grow.”
It’s too early for estimates for the upcoming crop, but in talking with his growers, Joyner is hearing more optimism all the way around.
“The entire industry is shorter than we have been for years,” he said. “The pricing is expected to be good.”
Nash Produce has remained successful in sweet potatoes for more than four decades by focusing on its customers and the consistency of supply of items.
“We committed to having product for our customers and service them properly,” Joyner said.
The Covington is the main variety that North Carolina grows and it was developed especially for the eastern part of the state due to its climate and soil. There’s a lot of tobacco that’s grown in the area as well, which helps with labor challenges.
“Labor has increasingly been a challenge, so the more utilization you can get out of labor, the more work you can have for people, and hopefully you can lower the cost,” Joyner said. “Sweet potatoes and tobacco complement each other really well.”
Even with the optimism, costs continue to rise in all facets of the industry, and interest rates are hitting numbers many growers haven’t seen before. That is the biggest worry among growers today who want to be sure that the increased costs can be covered.
“We have the good relationships with our customers and buyers to ensure that everyone can survive,” Joyner said.
Nash Produce will begin planting the seeds for the new sweet potato beds around the end of February, and will begin harvesting around Labor Day, and go through Thanksgiving.
“All of this is very labor-intensive; plants are cut and transplanted by hand, and sweet potatoes are harvested by hand,” Joyner said.
Nash Produce also has seen a rise in Murasaki sweet potatoes, and work with a lot of organic and white skin sweet potatoes as well.
“Murasaki is gaining in popularity and is a very prominent variety in other countries,” Joyner said.