Georgia Grown Produce

Production Rising

The Georgia Grown program has been a big boost for the state’s growers. Demand for Georgia products, as well as lower prices for row crops, including field corn and soybeans, has helped Georgia growers transition to growing more specialty crops. The state produces more diverse crops, including more vegetables, says Delbert Bland, president of Bland Farms, LLC in Glennville, GA. Georgia’s favorable climate and water also helps. “When you look at where food is produced in the United States as far as vegetables, there many people on the East Coast during our window, so we have one of the earliest they can get fresh produce,” he says. “The key is finding commodities good for this area as far as growing conditions. Growers then must be willing to spend the time and money on it and do a good job packing quality product for the retail buyers.”

Bland estimates it ships about 10 percent of its Vidalia onions to Georgia customers, primarily Atlanta retailers and wholesalers. Of those shipments, many truckloads go to supermarkets in surrounding states. “If you get to the truth of the matter, consumers would come closer to telling you if it looks good and is fresh — they’re more concerned about that than what state the product is grown in,” he says. Bland prefers to term his Vidalia production local grown but nationally marketed. “We have some retailers that do excellent jobs promoting Georgia while some have a lot of work to do,” he says. “Without calling names, I think all the stores could do a better job promoting Georgia products.”