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As Mexican volume coming through Nogales started in late March, Midwest Best Produce Inc., based in St. Louis, was going to be switching from watermelon cartons to bins. “The Mexican volume will pick up until Georgia comes in,” said owner Dan Pupillo Jr. “From here on out, we will roll into spring, until Missouri gets started at the end of June.”

Then, in the second week of July will come Midwest Best’s “main push, which is the Indiana watermelon deal,” he said.

Sprouts Farmers Market, one of the fastest-growing retailers in the country, announced new locations it will open in the third quarter of 2016. Sprouts will open a total of 36 stores in 2016, 24 of which have already been announced.sprouts

New Sprouts stores scheduled to open in July, August and September include locations in California, Arizona, Tennessee, Georgia and Oklahoma. Each of these stores will bring an estimated 100 jobs to the communities in which they are opening. Grand opening dates and other details will be shared at a later date.

Sprouts offers consumers a complete healthy grocery store experience featuring fresh produce, bulk foods, dairy, meat and seafood, bakery, deli, vitamins, body care and more. Shoppers will find an abundant selection of fresh fruits and vegetables and barrels of wholesome grains, nuts and sweets. The bright, open stores showcase fresh-baked goods, eclectic beer and wine, and thousands of natural, organic and gluten-free groceries. Sprouts’ on-site butchers help customers with special cuts of meat or seafood or handmade burgers and sausages. Sprouts’ knowledgeable service and low prices offer customers a unique shopping experience.

Sprouts said it is committed to sustainable growth that respects social and environmental well-being. As a part of this effort, the Sprouts Food Rescue Program donates unsold and edible, but not marketable, groceries to local food banks. Relief agencies pick up this food, which would otherwise go to waste, and distribute it to families in need. In 2015, Sprouts stores and distribution centers donated approximately 14 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 12 million meals, reducing hunger and the company’s environmental footprint.

For the second consecutive month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture raised its estimate of the 2015-16 Florida orange crop, predicting growers will produce 76 million boxes, a 7 percent increase.

A 5 million box rise in Valencias to 40 million accounted for the jump. Early and mid-season varieties, which have been harvested already, stayed at 36 million boxes.

"It's nice to be in expansion rather than reduction mode while knowing growers are still producing a quality crop," Michael W. Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a press release. "But our industry remains at historically low production levels as we continue to battle HLB, or citrus greening."

During the 2014-15 season, Florida produced 96.8 million boxes of oranges.

The USDA makes its initial estimate in October of each year and revises it monthly as the crop takes shape until the end of the season in July.

The USDA's estimate of the 2015-16 Florida grapefruit crop remained at 10.7 million boxes. Specialty citrus decreased a fraction to 1.79 million boxes. The yield for frozen concentrate orange juice is 1.42 gallons per 90-pound box.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has filed a notice to show cause under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act against The Alphas Co. Inc. The USDA alleges that the company is unfit to be licensed under PACA in that it and its president engaged in practices of a character prohibited by PACA.

The Alphas Co. Inc., operating from Massachusetts, will have an opportunity to request a hearing.  Should USDA find that the company engaged in practices of a character prohibited by PACA, USDA may withhold issuing a PACA license to The Alphas Co. Inc. and it would be barred from operating in the produce industry.

Additionally, the USDA cited Ricardo Bombella of Goodyear, AZ, for failing to comply with employment sanctions.

USDA and Ricardo Bombella entered into a consent decision and order finding that Bombella violated section 8(b) of PACA by being employed by a PACA licensee between April 2012 and April 2014 while under employment sanctions. As a result of the consent decision and order, Bombella’s employment sanction was extended for a one-year period beginning April 6, 2016.

In the past three years, the USDA resolved approximately 3,700 PACA claims involving more than $66 million. Its experts also assisted more than 7,100 callers with issues valued at approximately $100 million.

Ham Farms, a Snow Hill, NC-based integrated grower, packer, shipper and processor of sweet potato and other agricultural products, has been supplying customers with fresh and processed produce for over 40 years. As a family-owned-and-operated company, Ham Farms’ core strength has been its relationship with its buyers and corporate customers.ham

With the company’s continued growth and presence in the retail market, the new highlights its focus to engage retail customers, integrate new brands and grow the sweet potato market worldwide.

Engaging retail customers

Ham Farms has always been dedicated to its buyers and corporate customers, but with continued growth comes the importance of engaging retail customers. Blogs, email and social media campaigns will begin to foster a relationship with the company’s end users.  

Integrating new brands

The four companies owned and operated by Ham Farms — Ham Produce, Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration, Yamco and Covington Vodka — will be integrated into all marketing initiatives.

Growing the sweet potato market worldwide

Ham Farms said as a company rooted in eastern North Carolina, it feels a responsibility to continue the growth of the sweet potato market domestically and even worldwide. As a result, Ham Farms will target new markets and deliver awareness campaigns aimed at educating the public on the benefits of sweet potatoes and processed sweet potato products.  

The redesigned Ham Farms logo and website deliver a fresh new look to an established family-run business.

“I wanted to create a brand that was young and vibrant but still celebrated the rich family history of the company,” Marketing Director J.D. Wyborny said in a press release. “The new slogan Family to Table represents our commitment to delivering natural and fresh products from our family farm to your table.”

Visitors to the website will find an easy to navigate experience loaded with content including information on all of Ham’s brands, Southern-inspired recipes, and blogs focused on enhancing the awareness of the benefits of sweet potatoes.