The Best Of The Best

The Best Of The Best

Growers continue to rise to the challenges of today’s marketplace. Most do a great job. Some, however, do an excellent job. Those striving for excellence are the ones we are highlighting here as the finalists for the 2008 Grower Achievement Award.

Next month, American Vegetable Grower (AVG) will present the seventh annual Grower Achievement Award to a superior vegetable operation. We had some very deserving farms competing for the award again this year.

The 2008 award, sponsored by Syngenta Seeds/ROGERS Brand in cooperation with United Fresh Produce Association, is presented annually by AVG to a grower operation that goes above and beyond, establishing itself as an industry role model. The nominations were evaluated based on each of the farms’ achievements in the following categories: consumer-oriented marketing, use of innovative technology, food safety and food quality, industry leadership, and spirit of achievement.

A panel of industry experts has already met to discuss the merits of each finalist. The winner will be announced in the September issue. The award will be presented at the United Fresh Public Policy Conference in Washington, DC, Sept. 10-12. Here are highlights from this year’s finalists.

Buurma Farms, Inc.

Location: Willard, OH
Owners: The Buurma Family
Vegetable Acres: 4,000
Crops: Radishes, celery, carrots, southern greens, green beans, parsley, cilantro, dill, sweet corn, peppers, cucumbers, green onions, beets, zucchini, summer squash, and cabbage

In 1896, Buurma Farms began as a vegetable farm with a local marketing approach that stretched only 75 miles from its headquarters in Celeryville, OH. About 112 years later, this family business has grown to reach two-thirds of the nation within 24 hours of harvest. Run by 12 fourth and fifth generation Buurma shareholders, the operation has two additional farm locations in Gregory, MI, and Claxton, GA.

In addition to traditional produce packing methods, this company was one of the first to offer cello radishes in resealable bags. The three Buurma locations now use the computerized DataTrack touch probe time-keeping system for its employees.

In terms of food safety, the farms schedule regular third-party audits, utilize an efficient traceback system of barcodes and labels, and have appointed a corporate safety officer.

Active in the industry, Bruce Buurma has served as president of the Ohio Vegetable & Potato Growers Association,
and Loren Buurma is currently on its board of directors.

Lewis-Taylor Farms

Location: Tifton, GA
Owners: Bill Brim and Ed Walker
Vegetable Acres: 4,170
Crops: Bell peppers, specialty peppers, cucumbers, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, broccoli, cabbage, leafy greens, tomatoes, eggplant, and oriental vegetables

Although it operates as a corporation, Lewis-Taylor Farms is still a family business with more than 50 years of history. Starting out in primarily transplant production, the farm began producing row crops in 1985 and began growing vegetable transplants in containers in 1987.

With an emphasis on environmentally friendly practices, Lewis-Taylor has partnered with the University of Georgia to eliminate the use of methyl bromide on the farm. As one of the first in its state to employ GPS technologies, the farm also uses one of the most advanced cooling systems. This system involves running 9,000 gallons of water per minute over melons, broccoli, and leafy greens to cool those products from 90°F to about 45°F in 20 minutes.

Lewis-Taylor Farms is Good Agricultural Practices and Good Handling Practices certified. Co-owner Bill Brim is currently in his second term as president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association and is a member of the National Fruit and Vegetable Advisory Council.

L.G. Herndon Jr. Farms, Inc.

Location: Lyons, GA
Owner: L.G. Herndon Jr. (Bo)
Vegetable Acres: 2,151
Crops: Vidalia sweet onions, sweet corn, and greens

Between his active field and sales work, his role on the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association Board of Directors, and his dedication as chairperson of the Vidalia Onion Committee, L.G. “Bo” Herndon is a busy man.

Working with the University of Georgia Extension service, Bo has helped commission new seed trials and set up grants to support research for disease control and improved irrigation practices.

In 2004, Herndon Farms became Good Agricultural Practices certified, and this past April, the company passed a mock trace recall drill. In addition to third-party auditors, the farm also hires an agriculture lab to do further onion inspections for flavor profiles and pungency testing.

Herndon Farms recently expanded its warehouse and packing facility to almost 5 acres, which has helped save on labor and protect onions from damage. The farm established ponds and lakes to capture 90% of the watershed from the fields to use for irrigation water.

Pacific Tomato Growers, Ltd.

Location: Palmetto, FL
Owners: Esformes and Heller families
Vegetable Acres: 6,423
Crops: Field-grown round, grape, and Roma tomatoes

Producing a sweeter tomato and known for implementing the strictest of safety standards, Pacific Tomato Growers is one of five companies that shares the Sunripe brand.

Pacific Tomato is Socially Accountable Farm Employers certified and regularly meets and exceeds Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Systems guidelines. For the tracking and tracing of every single container, this operation uses an integrated ink-jet printing system to code its primary tomato clamshells and shipping cases for bulk quantities.

Recognized by the Florida Department of Agriculture for environmental leadership, Pacific Tomato has reduced runoff into the Myakka River by nearly 90% with a unique reuse and recycle water system.

Members of both Esformes and Heller families serve as models of industry leadership. CEO Billy Heller is involved with the Gulf Citrus Growers Association, the Florida Tomato Committee, the United Fresh Produce Association, and the National Coalition of Agricultural Employees, to name a few.

Eubanks Produce, Inc.

Location: Lucedale, MS
Owners: Allen and Janice Eubanks
Vegetable Acres: 1,000
Crops: Watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers, cucumbers, squash, eggplant, strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, and broccoli

Focusing on local pride, Allen and Janice Eubanks promote state grown produce with “Make Mine Mississippi” stickers on their products. This farm markets its produce to large and small grocery retail outlets, and every Wal-Mart in the state of Mississippi carries strawberries from Eubanks Produce. The Eubanks manage a successful pick-your-own operation, as well.

In the field, Eubanks uses a vacuum planter for precision seeding and auto-steer technology for row building and to apply crop protectants. The Eubanks use cover crops to reduce wind-related sand-blasting and to provide crops with protection from the cold. The farm also uses high tunnels for strawberry production, and black plastic with drip irrigation is used on all crops.

In 2004, the farm became the first grower in Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama to receive food safety certification from the Mississippi Department of Agriculture. Allen Eubanks is a member of the State Farm Agency Board and board member of the Society of St. Andrew’s Food Gleaning Association.

Leave a Reply

6 comments on “The Best Of The Best

  1. Hello my name is charlie .I have small garden in semmes ala. I would like to know where i can buy some of the black plactic you use on your tomatoes plants.

  2. hi all, only want know any farm need people for work i looking a jod in usa whit visa i want go again to usa can keep mor people for working hard in your farm please ask me idont speak inglis a little..

  3. Hello. We come to pick tomatoes every year with you and are wondering if the tomatoes are ready and what else you have. We are wanting to drive up Friday morning.

  4. Hello my name is charlie .I have small garden in semmes ala. I would like to know where i can buy some of the black plactic you use on your tomatoes plants.

  5. hi all, only want know any farm need people for work i looking a jod in usa whit visa i want go again to usa can keep mor people for working hard in your farm please ask me idont speak inglis a little..

  6. Hello. We come to pick tomatoes every year with you and are wondering if the tomatoes are ready and what else you have. We are wanting to drive up Friday morning.

Featured Stories

Farm ManagementIndustry Organizations Sound Off On President’s Immigration Plan
November 21, 2014
Agriculture is not given the attention it so sorely deserves when it comes to the immigration debate. Read More
Insect ControlDon’t Turn Your Back On Striped Blister Beetles
November 21, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable pest. Read More
CitrusRamped-Up Predatory Mite Production To Benefit Growers
November 21, 2014
Biologics company Beneficial Insectary now rearing two species in its California facility. Read More
NutsArizona Pistachio And Pecan Growers Benefiting From High Prices
November 21, 2014
Pecan production alone is expected to double in the next 10 years. Read More
Apples & PearsOn The Road With The International Fruit Tree Association Study Tour To Italy Part 2 [Slideshow]
November 21, 2014
Attention to detail is evident in the production of high quality feathered apple trees at GRIBA’s nursery. Read More
Fruits2014 California Winegrape Harvest: Outstanding
November 21, 2014
It’s the earliest crop of the decade, but still a third in a string of great vintages. Read More
FruitsFetzer Vineyards Pioneers Zero Waste
November 21, 2014
Company achieves top sustainability certification by diverting 98% of its waste from the landfill. Read More
VegetablesFormer Harris Seeds Co. CEO, Per Jensen, Passes At 85
November 21, 2014
A passion for plants defined longtime industry influencer. Read More
GrapesPerfect Storm Hurts New York Concord Grape Growers
November 21, 2014
More than 10,000 tons of juice grapes are abandoned because of too much production and no market. Read More
FruitsClassic Turkey Day Dinner Costing Consumers More This Year
November 20, 2014
Despite increase, a family of 10 can still get stuffed for less than $50. Read More

The Latest

Farm ManagementIndustry Organizations Sound Off On President’s Immig…
November 21, 2014
Agriculture is not given the attention it so sorely deserves when it comes to the immigration debate. Read More
Insect ControlDon’t Turn Your Back On Striped Blister Beetles
November 21, 2014
Learn how to ID, the survival and spread, as well as management methods of this vegetable pest. Read More
CitrusRamped-Up Predatory Mite Production To Benefit Growers
November 21, 2014
Biologics company Beneficial Insectary now rearing two species in its California facility. Read More
NutsArizona Pistachio And Pecan Growers Benefiting From Hig…
November 21, 2014
Pecan production alone is expected to double in the next 10 years. Read More
Apples & PearsOn The Road With The International Fruit Tree Associati…
November 21, 2014
Attention to detail is evident in the production of high quality feathered apple trees at GRIBA’s nursery. Read More
Fruits2014 California Winegrape Harvest: Outstanding
November 21, 2014
It’s the earliest crop of the decade, but still a third in a string of great vintages. Read More
FruitsFetzer Vineyards Pioneers Zero Waste
November 21, 2014
Company achieves top sustainability certification by diverting 98% of its waste from the landfill. Read More
VegetablesFormer Harris Seeds Co. CEO, Per Jensen, Passes At 85
November 21, 2014
A passion for plants defined longtime industry influencer. Read More
GrapesPerfect Storm Hurts New York Concord Grape Growers
November 21, 2014
More than 10,000 tons of juice grapes are abandoned because of too much production and no market. Read More
FruitsClassic Turkey Day Dinner Costing Consumers More This Y…
November 20, 2014
Despite increase, a family of 10 can still get stuffed for less than $50. Read More
Insect ControlFlorida Vegetable Growers Gain Access To New Nematicide
November 20, 2014
Methyl bromide alternative Nimitz approved for use on tomatoes, peppers, okra, eggplant, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, and squash. Read More
EquipmentHighlights From EIMA International In Italy [Slideshow]
November 19, 2014
The 2014 edition of the International Agricultural and Gardening Machinery Exhibition (EIMA) boasted a record number of attendees from 124 countries. Read More
Farm ManagementVegetableGrowerConnect Delivers Results For Growers And…
November 19, 2014
Suppliers and growers got down to business in San Diego discussing current needs, solutions, and ways to increase efficiencies on the farm. Browse this slideshow for VegetableGrowerConnect highlights. Read More
FruitsFixing Farm Labor Woes Worth The Extra Effort [Opinion]
November 19, 2014
40th annual Ag Labor Relations Forum encourages outreach and action. Read More
BerriesPackaging Company’s Campaign To Benefit Future Organi…
November 19, 2014
Sambrailo Packaging of Watsonville, CA, has partnered with California Certified Organic Farmers and will donate a portion of the sales of clamshells made from plastic bottles. Read More
Apples & PearsOn The Road With The International Fruit Tree Associati…
November 19, 2014
Win Cowgill of Rutgers University details a trip through the one of the most concentrated fruit growing areas in the world, the South Tyrol region of Italy. Read More
IrrigationAlmond Grower Honored For Water Efficiency
November 18, 2014
Ongoing drought highlights the efforts of third-generation Madera County grower Tom Rogers. Read More
CitrusWomen’s Impact On Agriculture Impressive [Opinion…
November 18, 2014
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the long-term sustainability of farming depends on our youth. Read More