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Strong family work ethic reaping substantial growth for Ken Corbett Farms

LAKE PARK, GA — The family farm is alive and thriving in Lake Park, GA. At Ken Corbett Farms, a new generation of Corbetts is growing the family business with the same love and tender care they put into their vegetables.

“It’s a family affair, we all grew up on the farm working together and have a passion for what we do,” said Justin Corbett, 27, operations manager for Ken Corbett Farms.

The hard work is paying off. “We’ve grown substantially from a 50-acre bell pepper farm to 400 acres over the last 10 years,” he added.

The latest measure of Ken Corbett Farms’ success is putting more diversity in its product roster. Along with further expanding bell pepper acreage, the firm doubled its cucumber acreage.

“We went from 100 acres to 200 acres of cucumbers, “ Corbett said.

The aim is to make the business more of a one-stop shop for customers. Ken Corbett Farms already does quite a bit of bell pepper, eggplant, squash and zucchini, but it wanted to add more cucumbers.

Corbett started taking more of a leadership role in the family farm after graduating from high school. His earliest memory is of being 3 or 4 and riding on the tractor with his father, Ken Corbett.

What makes their farm successful is the strong work ethic, according to Corbett.

“Everyone is working together, a Corbett member is involved with every aspect of this business,” he said.

Corbett credits his father with driving the family business growth, but everyone does their share. Brother Jared, 21, runs the packing facility, while Justin Corbett runs what he calls “the growing side of things,” and, “Momma is still in the office every day handling all the billing and payroll.”

Additionally, sister Jessica Corbett Bolesta, 25, branched out last October to create a retail produce market and agro-tourism center in Valdosta, GA, called Raisin Cane.

“Jessica was the drive behind it, she had a vision to do it and carve out her own niche in the farm,” Corbett said, adding that he is pleased to see that the market in Valdosta is doing very well and getting a good customer base. A lot of schools are taking their students on field trips to visit the agro-tourism center.

“We take school kids around and show them how stuff is grown,” Corbett said. “A lot of kids, when you ask them where does produce come from, say Publix. We show them what it takes to get it there.”

Jessica’s husband, Eric Bolesta, is also helping grow the company. He is one of three salespeople that sell to retailers, foodservice and wholesale business.

Potential retail accounts have an open invitation to drop by and visit the farm. Corbett said he loves for any potential customers to see their operations first hand, including their state-of-the-art packing facility, so he can show them how Ken Corbett Farms can provide them with a premier product that won’t disappoint.

“It’s a completely climate-controlled facility where the product is packed,” he said. “Once the product comes into the facility, it never sees air again until it gets on the grocery store shelf.”

Another thing visiting retailers will see is the cleanliness of the facility, according to Corbett. The company puts a strong emphasis on food safety, wanting to be proactive and an industry leader in that. So it comes as no surprise that Ken Corbett Farms is Primus-certified.

But a growing business needs more storage space, so the company is adding 10,000 square feet to its cold-storage facility, which is currently 25,000 square feet. The addition will be completed in time for harvest in mid-May.

Ken Corbett Farms plans future growth, using the family’s passion for excellence in produce, to provide a quality product. But how does working with all these family members factor into those plans?

“We all love what we do, we are going to butt heads now and then, but at the end of the day we all love each other,” said Corbett.