It doesn’t get as much attention as its neighbors in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, but Tennessee plays an important role in the Southeast produce industry. In particular, at this time of year cooler temperatures and higher elevation provide an important means to fill a gap in the Southern veg deal when it’s far too hot to grow in other areas.
Southern Valley has its roots deep in the Georgia red dirt in Norman Park, but year-round customers don’t want to hear about seasonal limitations. So the company has and controls its own operations in Mexico in the Yucatan and, this time of year, in Tennessee.
“Customers definitely do not want to hear the word gap,” says Southern Valley Director of Marketing Anna Ligon. “Tennesee allows us to keep that year-round supply going.”
Southern’s Tennessee deal starts right around the 4th of July and weather permitting runs to about Halloween.
“It depends on if there are some cold snaps – last year it was kind of warm for the winter and the fall — Christmas was 85 degrees. We will go ahead and start our fall Georgia [program] and if we have good weather in Tennessee we will just [continue and] have more volume.”
Southern’s Tennessee deal includes the same familiar lineup from Georgia and Mexico: Yellow squash and zucchini, bell pepper, mini-sweet pepper, some hot pepper, green beans and the company’s famous pole-grown cucumbers.
There is a possibility Southern’s Georgia eggplant program could expand to Tennessee in the future as well.
“We are looking at trying to do that up there as well,” Ligon said.
New facility upgrades in Tennessee make that much more likely and also promise even better product, supply and volume out of The Volunteer State.
“We did expand the packing facility and loading docks and some cooling lanes, we’ve added 10 new cooling lanes for a total of 13 and we added an additional six loading docks for a total of nine, so that’s certainly helped from an operations side. We have a little more room to get everything in. The infrastructure was our biggest excitement for the season; just having newly expanded coolers and loading docks has helped things run a little smoother and not be quite so cramped.”
All of which means anyone looking to cover that late summer Southern veg window “can expect business as usual. We’ve had a good season so far.”