view current print edition




Bland Farms' fall program underway; expansion planned for TX cross-dock

by Chip Carter | October 11, 2010
As Bland Farms LLC in Glennville, GA, prepared for the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit convention, the company was coming off one of its finer Vidalia, GA, onion seasons ever and was well into its fall program featuring Peruvian sweet onions, "Empire Sweets" from New York state and sweet onions from Utah.

“It’s going real well,” Michael Hively, chief financial officer of Bland Farms, told The Produce News Oct. 4. “Between the three locations, I think we can provide the customer base with what they’re looking for when it comes to a sweet onion. All three programs are going really well.”

Mr. Hively added, “The Peruvian season will run up through the middle of January, the New York sweets will run for another month, then we’ll be in storage onions through the end of December. The western program will run through December.”

From there, Bland Farms will begin its spring program of sweet onions from Mexico and south Texas until production begins again on Vidalias in April. Meanwhile, the company’s still-new cross-dock facility in Donna, TX, has done well enough that Bland just announced plans for expansion. The $6 million facility opened in 2008 and is already at capacity.

“We’ve decided to do another expansion — we’re adding three more coolers and spending another $2 million to expand it some more,” Mr. Hively said. “Because of where it is located, that facility was built specifically for a cross- dock operation for other people — we’ll run onions through there but not pack onions from there. When we bring onions from Mexico, we will use that location for cross-docking.”

After a soft start to the Vidalia season had just passed, Bland was pleasantly surprised by a turnaround in the weather that resulted in a bumper crop of medium onions — perfect for a summer promotional partnership with the Hollywood film “Shrek Forever After.” The result was a banner year for Bland’s Vidalias.

“If you’d asked somebody before harvest how bad the crop was going be off, we’d have probably told you 35-40 percent,” said Richard Pazderski, director of sales for Bland Farms. And while production was down due to early weather losses, the company actually made up ground because “the quality was so good we didn’t lose as much on packout as normal. It’s been a great season for us, great quality, great volume — I’d like to have a season like this every year,” Mr. Pazderski said.

Bland will be exhibiting in the Georgia Pavilion at Fresh Summit, this year with a large, 30-by-40 booth and a private conference room.

Bland Farms ships sweet onions — including about one-third of the total Vidalia onion crop — around the world year-round from multiple locations. The company is among the larger grower-packer-shippers of sweet onions in the country.