Nash Produce continues to invest in operations
Nash Produce has been concentrating on sweet potatoes since 2006 and has become a leading supplier out of its farm in Nashville, NC.
Thomas Joyner, president of Nash Produce, noted that the combination of rich North Carolina soil and a great climate for the local family farms provide the perfect environment for growing the world’s best sweet potatoes.
As of mid-September, the harvest was still on the front-side of the season, with not a lot of growers having started yet, though normally at this time of year, things are in a full swing.
“We transplanted about 10 days later than normal due to a cooler May and cooler June, so we just got a later start,” Joyner said. “We have started to dig some and what we’re seeing looks good and it’s sizing up pretty well. The quality is good, and we expect by Sept. 24, we will be harvesting at full-scale.”
The 2022 sweet potato crop was longer than usual, and even though Nash Produce cut acres back, it still had strong yields.
“This year, the acres have been reduced again, and we don’t know what the yields are going to do,” Joyner said. “I do think at the end of the day, the 2023 crop will be smaller than that of 2022. This will shorten up next summer and that can be a little bit of a concern.”
Nash Produce grows more than 11,000 acres of sweet potatoes. The Covington variety has been a major player, as it goes to foodservice and retail outlets.
“We also do a lot of organic and a lot of Murasaki, though that’s more of a niche market,” Joyner said. “The organic market grows every year, but not as rapidly as it did early on. But we’re still seeing growth on average of 10 percent a year. Demand continues so it’s been a good program for us.”
Rising costs has been an issue for Nash Produce this past year, and labor is a big concern as well.
“My growers are having issues with packinghouse labor, but costs in general has been the biggest challenge,” Joyner said. “We want to make sure our growers make money, because if they don’t, they can’t grow sweet potatoes, and that’s what we sell. Up until about two years ago, you didn’t pay attention to many of these costs, but they have gone up in such a way over the last 24 months, we are seeing less acres because of it.”
Helping to overcome these challenges is the experienced team at Nash Produce.
“Packing sweet potatoes is what we do, so we don’t compete with our growers,” Joyner said. “We have invested heavily in our team here to ensure we have the best service to offer to customers. Almost every customer we deal with has a different integration program they want, so we have to understand how that works and our goal is to give them a quality product, the trucks will be there on time, the phones will be answered if they call and our team is very good at handling all those issues.”
This past year, Nash Produce added a 1,000-bushel storage unit and Joyner sees more areas for growth in the immediate future, including upgrading some of the packing equipment.
“We continue to invest into our operations so we can be more efficient and try to keep our costs down as much as possible,” Joyner said.