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Sunnyridge Farm moving good volumes of organic blueberries from Georgia

Brothers Jerry, Keith and Greg Mixon share ownership and management of Sunnyridge Farm Inc. in Winter Haven, FL, a leading berry producer and shipper. The company has growing operations in regions throughout North and South America. Domestically, it follows the seasons from Florida northward.

On June 3, Jerry Mixon told The Produce News that the company was moving a significant volume of organic blueberries in Georgia.

“Georgia organic blueberries typically run through about mid-July,” said Mr. Mixon. “Our big offering comes from our own farm in Baxley, Georgia, where we grow 210 acres of certified organic product. Following that program we move north to New Jersey and then to Midwest. Ultimately we end up in Oregon and then to Chile for supplies.”

Sunnyridge Farm handles conventional blueberries in the same regions, in addition to Argentina and Mexico.

“Blueberries are our strongest organic program through August,” said Mr. Mixon. “We then begin concentrating on organic strawberries from Florida followed by raspberries out of Mexico and Chile.”

Mr. Mixon said the organic blueberry market is very strong today, and the item is commanding a premium price. When there is too much supply the market can be fragile and prices level off.

“The cost to grow organic blueberries is higher, and the yields are different in a negative way,” he said. “Improvements in growing techniques are surfacing with every year, however, and eventually production of organic and conventional product will level out.”

Sunnyridge Farm has what Mr. Mixon said are “very exciting” conventional raspberry and blueberry programs from Mexico, enabling the company to hit some nice windows. Conventional product from Chile and Argentina is staying strong.

“These countries are making great strides in growing and promoting their berries,” said Mr. Mixon. “Quality improves with every year.”

Florida continues to be the real breadbasket of berry production for Sunnyridge Farm, however. New for the company this year is an organic blackberry program from the state.

The company uses the “Sunnyridge” label on all of its labels, and organics are differentiated with U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic stickers. The company has strong, concise food-safety and traceback programs in place.

“The interesting thing about food safety with all berry products is in how the industry has stepped up and taken the lead,” said Mr. Mixon. “The government now has initiatives going on, but our food safety systems are already in place to ensure that people get safe product. We’re really on top of this.”

Sunnyridge Farm is third-party audited and has full traceability. It follows the principles of the strictest Good Agricultural Practices programs that are available, and its farms are GlobalGAP-certified. For its organic products, it is certified by Quality Certification Services, commonly called QCS, of Florida, and it meets QCS national standards based on the USDA’s National Organic Program.

The company’s Plant City, FL, facility is in its third strawberry season. Mr. Mixon said the facility has been a great asset to the firm.

“We handle South American product and Florida blueberries and strawberries at the facility,” he added.

Organics, Mr. Mixon said, continue to be a viable place for a certain amount of produce.

“We’re excited about our offerings and about our future,” he said.