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North Carolina’s Boyette Bros. to expand U. S. sweet potato sales

The Boyette family has been farming in North Carolina for about 100 years and is internationally known for its quality sweet potatoes, but the name may be unfamiliar to many in the North American produce industry. That’s about to change, beginning with the New York Produce Show & Conference Dec. 5-8 in New York City. Boyette Bros. and Rock Ridge Farms will have a booth at this show, their first at a U. S. trade show.

“We felt with our new packing line, now four years in operation, and capacity for year-round storage space, we were ready to expand the portion of our crop sold in the U. S. market,” Erica Barajas told The Produce News. She is the marketing manager for Boyette Bros. Produce. Beginning with the New York show at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, Boyette Bros. will introduce itself to the American produce industry by exhibiting and attending trade shows, she said. “Our Top of the Rock brand has gained tremendous recognition in Europe, and we look forward to meeting buyers interested in learning more about our farm’s premium sweet potato varieties,” Barajas added.

BrothersGuy Boyette began farming in Rock Ridge, NC, in the 1920’s. His son Artemus joined him in the 1950’s. Today, his sons, Wiley, Michael and Robert Boyette (shown above, left to right) run Boyette Bros. Produce, with fourth-generation family members including Wiley’s daughter Kaitlyn and Robert’s daughter, Regan, playing instrumental roles in the family business. Central attraction of The New York Produce Show and Conference is the one-day trade show on Dec 7, Barajas observed. In a rapid-fire, seven-hour period, more than 5,000 produce executives from around the world are expected to visit 400 exhibitors for one-on-one meetings. The ever-increasing demand for sweet potatoes in this country led to the decision to expand offerings here at home. “Consumer awareness of the health benefits of sweet potatoes has increased over the years,” Barajas noted. “Consumers are attracted to sweet potatoes because they are both nutritious and easy to prepare, have longer shelf life and great versatility.” T

he Boyette Bros. operate with food safety and sanitation a key priority throughout the organization. Rock Ridge Farms was one of the first farms in Wilson County, NC, to become GlobalGap certified, and a small but steadily increasing part of their sweet potato crop is organic. Guy Boyette started farming in the small North Carolina community of Rock Ridge in the 1920s. Son Armetus joined him in the 1950s, then his sons Wiley, Robert and Michael joined the family business after completing their educations.

The succession plan envisioned by the brothers has been followed, with fourth-generation family members including Wiley’s daughter Kaitlyn and Robert’s daughter, Regan, playing instrumental roles in the family business. Already established as a diversified farm, the Boyettes also produces cotton, soybeans, corn, wheat and peanuts. The family started growing sweet potatoes in 1982. Those were not the best of times for sweet potatoes. In fact, 1982 was one of the worst years ever for sweet potato prices.

Rather than give up, the Boyette Bros. doubled down. Armetus noted at the time that “the only way the price can go is up from here.” He was right. The sweet potato operation was established, though the Boyettes would not open their own packing facility until 2012 to add value and capitalize on growing demand. The state-of-the-art facility has storage capacity for more than 600,000 bushels, allowing virtually any packing request to be fulfilled throughout the year.