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Spiech Farms still on Inc. list of fastest-growing companies

by Christina DiMartino | September 02, 2011

Spiech Farms LLC in Lawton, MI, is a fourth-generation family-owned-and-operated grower, packer and distributor of Concord grapes and several other fresh produce items. The company has been on the Inc. 5000 list of “America’s Fastest Growing Companies” for four consecutive years.

Steve and Tim Spiech in one of Spiech Farms LLC’s vineyards. (Photo courtesy of Spiech Farms)

In 2010, the company was rated number 1,468 on the list, but in the food and beverage category, it was ranked 31.

Tim Spiech and his father, Steve Spiech, own and operate the company. It is among the world’s larger grower-shipper-packers of Concord grapes.

“Grapes are the foundation of our company,” Tim Spiech told The Produce News. “It is what our company got its start in, and it is what we build on today. We’re looking forward to an outstanding crop of Michigan grapes this year in both volume and quality. The vines received a lot of rain during the early growing season, so the cluster and berry size is large. It’s not a bumper crop, but it’s a really good one.”

Spiech Farms was planning to start harvesting Michigan Concord grapes the last week of August and expected to wrap up harvesting around the third week of October.

Mr. Spiech said that 2011’s great crop is particularly good news following on the heels of the poor 2010 crop. “We lost about 80 percent of our crop last year due to weather,” he said. “This year, the growing conditions were perfect, and the grapes are very clean. Like everything in Michigan, we’ll have about a two-week delay due to the cooler spring we had. It held off budding, but that means we didn’t lose any buds due to cold weather, so it worked out really nice.”

The company distributes its “Spiech Farms” branded grapes primarily east of the Mississippi River, and the firm sells to most retail chains in the East.

The end of the Michigan grape season is not the end of the year for Spiech Farms. Mr. Spiech said that the company found an approximately 100-acre patch of Concord grapes in Chile. That program runs in April and May.

The company also handles other Michigan seedless table grape varieties such as Marquis, white and tri-color packs of other varieties.

It also handles blueberries. “We have blueberry packingsheds in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey and Michigan,” he said. “We source from grower-partners in these regions, and we’re involved from harvest forward, including the packing and marketing. We also import blueberries from Argentina and Chile.”

Spiech Farms additionally grows, packs and ships Michigan-grown asparagus in the spring, and it has a small, short stint with sweet cherries.

“Our current push is based around new planting,” said Mr. Spiech. “Every year, we are increasing our acreage on asparagus and new Michigan table grape varieties. Our plans for the future are pretty substantial. We will be increasing acreage considerably over the next three years, with major increases planned for the next 10 years.”

Many major changes are taking place at Spiech Farms currently. It expanded its Michigan facility two years ago, and this year, it completed construction of a 12,000-square-foot packing facility just in time for the grape season.

“This year, we also opened a Pompano Beach [FL] division for imports,” said Mr. Spiech. “We will be processing all of our imports there, rather than having other companies do it for us. We hired Martin Maldonado as director of imports there. He has worked with a number of import companies. Martin is from Guatemala. He exported blackberries and mixed vegetables for some time before coming to the U.S. to work in imports.”

Spiech Farms is in the process of completing its GS1 traceback barcode program. The code is now on every case of produce coming into and going out of the company’s facilities. It is now working toward GS1 barcoding its individual clamshells. The company is also Primus audited.

“Our focus for the future is to take everything we have now down to the growing level so we can be totally and fully integrated,” said Mr. Spiech.