REIDSVILLE, GA — Sweet potatoes have been as much a part of Georgia and Georgians for so long that until fairly recently, most growers from here took them for granted. Other crops were more valuable, more popular, made more money for a farmer. Sweet potatoes were shunted to the side as Georgia farmers moved on.
Flash forward a few years, as the good news about the nutritional value of sweet potatoes came to light and spread. Markets boomed. So did the industry in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and, especially, North Carolina, which produces half the nation’s crop each year.
Georgia growers looked around and wondered why they weren’t in the sweet potato business. Over the last five or six years, some larger players have gotten in the deal and Georgia sweet potato production is set to explode.
Demand and markets are still growing. Sweet potatoes are chefs’ darlings and nutritionists’ delight. To the rest of us they’re just delicious. It’s a win-win.
Shuman Produce Inc., is best known as one of the largest producers of sweet onions, Vidalia and Peruvian, marketed under its RealSweet label. A few seasons backs, Shuman started offering sweet potatoes from other states as part of its lineup. The success of that program made it only natural that the Shumans would start growing their own at home in Georgia as well.
SPW Editor Chip Carter and Video Guru Jenni Kight took a ride to Reidsville — well, technically metropolitan Reidsville, way, way out in the country in southeast Georgia — to get a look at what the Shumans are cooking up as fall harvest gets underway.