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.

Vegetables Stories
FruitsJiffy Pumped To Introduce New Produce Propagation System
January 23, 2015
PreGro concept to make its debut at Fruit Logistica. Read More
Apples & PearsSurvey: Positive Indicators For Biocontrols In U.S. Horticulture, Agriculture
January 22, 2015
Preliminary results of a survey conducted in December 2014 of more than 850 readers across six Meister Media Worldwide titles Read More
Apples & PearsReal-World Solutions Highlight First Biocontrols 2015 Conference & Tradeshow
January 22, 2015
Topping the inaugural event's marquee are presentations on “Driving Crop Quality and Productivity Using Biocontrols” by representatives from two of the largest produce growing organizations in the country. Read More
Food SafetyStill Plenty On The Plate Regarding Food Safety Modernization Act [Opinion]
January 22, 2015
Almost two years after originally being proposed, four revised rules are still being picked over. Read More
Insect ControlExceptional Care Needed When Taking On Common Blossom Thrips
January 21, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this insect pest of vegetables. Read More
VegetablesTakeaways From The 2015 Empire State Producers Expo
January 20, 2015
From crop protection pointers to potato breeding, there was no shortage of learning opportunities at the New York show. Read More
CitrusBayer CropScience Launches Latest Insecticide, Sivanto
January 20, 2015
New product delivers precision pest control to preserve the health of plants and protect fruit and vegetable crops. Read More
The Latest
CitrusNominees Sought For Florida Agricultural Environmental …
January 26, 2015
Honor recognizes those developing and adopting environmentally innovative farming practices. Read More
CitrusIncreased Global Trade Opportunity Equals New Threats F…
January 26, 2015
Despite expanding business abroad, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says he's confident in the protocols in place to prevent entry of invasive pests and disease. Read More
CitrusShopping For UAVs? Here Are 2 To Consider
January 25, 2015
Check out a couple of high-flying options from Altavian. Read More
FruitsJiffy Pumped To Introduce New Produce Propagation Syste…
January 23, 2015
PreGro concept to make its debut at Fruit Logistica. Read More
Apples & PearsSurvey: Positive Indicators For Biocontrols In U.S. Hor…
January 22, 2015
Preliminary results of a survey conducted in December 2014 of more than 850 readers across six Meister Media Worldwide titles Read More
Apples & PearsReal-World Solutions Highlight First Biocontrols 2015 C…
January 22, 2015
Topping the inaugural event's marquee are presentations on “Driving Crop Quality and Productivity Using Biocontrols” by representatives from two of the largest produce growing organizations in the country. Read More
Food SafetyStill Plenty On The Plate Regarding Food Safety Moderni…
January 22, 2015
Almost two years after originally being proposed, four revised rules are still being picked over. Read More
Insect ControlExceptional Care Needed When Taking On Common Blossom T…
January 21, 2015
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this insect pest of vegetables. Read More
VegetablesTakeaways From The 2015 Empire State Producers Expo
January 20, 2015
From crop protection pointers to potato breeding, there was no shortage of learning opportunities at the New York show. Read More
CitrusBayer CropScience Launches Latest Insecticide, Sivanto
January 20, 2015
New product delivers precision pest control to preserve the health of plants and protect fruit and vegetable crops. Read More
Food SafetyFood Safety Recall Survival Tips
January 20, 2015
Preparation is critical to ensure a smooth process. Read More
CitrusGrowers Should Stay Grounded When Reaching For Lofty Go…
January 20, 2015
Unmanned aerial vehicles are all the rage. Can and will this technology become a standard tool for farmers? Read More
Farm ManagementEcological Farming Association Conference Nears
January 19, 2015
The 35th annual conference will be held Jan. 21-24 in Asilomar, CA. Read More
CitrusScientists Say 2014 Warmest Year Since 1880
January 19, 2015
Separate studies by NASA and NOAA confirm continuance of long-term warming trend. Read More
CitrusElevated Expectations For UAV Use In Agriculture
January 15, 2015
Uncertainties aside, many believe unmanned aircraft will find a lasting place in farming. Read More
Protected AgricultureFactors To Consider For Successful Production In Contro…
January 15, 2015
Greenhouse expert Merle Jensen, a speaker at the upcoming Greenhouse Crop Production & Engineering Design Short Course in Arizona, offers pointers on marketing, variety selection, location, and more. Read More
CucurbitsHow To Be Successful Using Grafted Vegetable Plants
January 15, 2015
University of Arizona researcher offers advice on purchasing commercially grafted plants, pitfalls to avoid, and an update on the latest technology. Read More
FruitsUSDA Announces Funding To Support Beginning Farmers
January 14, 2015
The funds will be used to help educate, mentor, and enhance the sustainability of the next generation of growers. Read More