Chief of Operations
Bland Farms, LLC: Glennville, GA
Years in Produce:
Faith First, Family Second, Farm Third
Hobbies: Attending football games; golf; duck hunting
Motto in life: Married; Twins (boy and girl)
Work History: Bland is a fourth generation farmer and from childhood has been intrigued by his family’s farm and operations. He attended the University of Georgia before joining his family fulltime in the business, working from the bottom up by starting on farms in New York and Peru. While working for Bland Farms he became the facility manager at Dowdy Farms until 2007 where he learned the ins and outs of harvesting, clippings and drying of Vidalia onions. He eventually moved to a position focusing on quality control and procurement and through his dedication and hard work, he advanced to chief of operations in 2016. He is now in charge of all operations in Peru, Mexico, Georgia and Texas. He’s the backbone to one of the company’s mottos “Roots to Retail.” He has a hand in everything Bland Farms-related, whether it’s new packaging, running the packing shed or planting the new crop. Bland is known for pushing innovation and has been the driving force behind the company’s ongoing investment in grading and sorting technology. He shares his passion and commitment to the produce industry by serving as the committee chair of the Vidalia Onion Committee for the past three years where he has helped grow the Vidalia onion business to what it is today. He is also active in the GA REACH Program and Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA). Bland Farms also sponsors the Raymond D. Bland Scholarship for Agriculture that awards two deserving applicants in a relatable study of agriculture with scholarships to help them continue their education.
Questions & Answers:
Q: How did you begin working in produce?
The love and admiration I had for my grandfather (Gran-Gran) as a child is what got me started in the produce industry. The fond memories of riding out in the fields with him and watching him and my parents hard at work is what has driven me to grow within the company and carry on to further success in the family business.
Q: Are you a Gen X-er or Millennial?
I consider myself a Millennial because I identify myself more a Millennial than a Gen X-er due to the fact of being able to embrace technology and change with the times, yet I still believe I have the work ethic of a Gen-Xer.
Q: What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of in your career?
One of my greatest accomplishments is continuing down the path my father has set before me. I strive to continue to innovate the way we produce our sweet onions and sweet potatoes. I am very proud to be the driving force behind our company’s reasoning for investing in technology that allows us to grade and sort our sweet onions better.
Q: What are some of the more challenging aspects of a career in the produce industry today?
The most challenging aspect today is where the business is changing from a relationship business to a consolidated retail market, which is only driven by a contract basis and the only concern is price.
Q: What is the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?
I truly think in the produce industry we have to do a much better job at being sustainable in the coming years, but it’s not just the producers that have to worry about this, it’s also our retail partners who bring our fruits and vegetables to market. We cannot do it alone; we have to have the recognition from retailers for the sacrifices and extra costs for doing these programs to become more sustainable.