Vick Family Farms gearing up for sweet potato season
Vick Family Farms has been a trusted name in growing, packaging and shipping sweet potatoes in eastern North Carolina since the early ’80s, and supply sweet potatoes to customers both domestically and internationally year-round.
“We offer private label and are known for Carolina Gold labels in a variety of packs,” said Charlotte Vick, partner/sales and marketing manager for the Wilson, NC-based company. “We grow, pack and ship over 1.5 million bushels each year.”
Easter is typically a busy season for sweet potato movement as often times retailers will promote a few weeks before the holiday.
“Easter seems to be busier each year as sweet potatoes are continuing to grow in popularity,” Vick said. “In years past Thanksgiving and Christmas was the busy season but Easter has grown to be a busy time now. It is also the halfway point with sales from the prior harvest and planning for the coming years crop has begun as well. Most seed beds are in by Easter and planting begins in May.”
Success in the category comes down to consistency and ensuring you continue to have a good management team that is always watching the line and what you are packing.
“You have to make sure at all times you are paying close attention to costs these days and you are maximizing what comes out of the fields,” Vick said. “Today, it is very expensive to grow a crop and even the smallest error can cost a producer a lot of money. There is no room for waste or error today because the margins are much smaller. Competition is strong and communication is key.”
While Vick Family Farms has not begun the new season, plans are set to begin in March preparing transplant greenhouses and beds in the fields.
“Costs to grow the crop are still very high and our labor costs for the coming season has yet again increased, so I do not feel like there will be an increase in acres planted,” Vick said. “We are all very worried about the labor issues and costs for this coming year.”
The company works with several retail chains and added a few this year.
“I do feel we listen to our customers and make sure at all times they are getting what they order and that we set the bar high with the quality we ship out,” Vick said. “It takes many years sometimes to build those relationships. If we can get buyers to visit our shed and see what we can offer and at least give us the chance, we think that is the best chance we have in obtaining new partnerships.
Constant communication is very important and always being honest with the customer even if it may not be what they want to hear. I think everyone appreciates honesty in all that they do.”
Vick Family Farms brought in some value-added equipment this winter and are also working on expanding its foodservice business for the coming years.
“We will be at Southern Exposure and at the Foodservice Show in Monterey again this summer in hopes we can attract new domestic customers in these areas,” Vick said.
“We look forward to continue our growth in retail and strengthening even more the relationships we currently have. I couldn’t be more pleased with the opportunities we have been given this year and look forward to only growing those in the future.”