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Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable has made several facility and internal improvements over the past year.

Dug Schwalls, director of sales for the company, headquartered in Norman Park, GA, said, “We added nearly 80,000 square feet of cooling space to our Georgia facility this year. And we have installed a new squash packingline in the past year.”

Mr. Schwalls said that the company grows and packs its own farm-grown product.

“We grow pole cucumbers, yellow squash-both straight and crooked neck-green beans, zucchini, bell peppers, specialty peppers in 12 types, eggplant, pickles, green, red and Savoy cabbage, hard squashes, sweet corn, tomatoes and blueberries,” said Mr. Schwalls. “In the spring and fall we grow in Georgia. In the summer we grow in Pikeville, Tennessee. In the winter we grow in Yucatan, Mexico.”

The combination of growing regions gives Southern Valley the ability to provide year-round supplies to its customers, who are retailers, foodservice operators and wholesalers. The company’s fresh produce is distributed across the United States and into Canada under the “Southern Valley” label.

Mr. Schwalls told The Produce News that the company’s Georgia spring tomato program has been increased considerably this year.

“We have done some test plots in the past, but we are now getting into heavier acreage,” he said. “We are also working on a new squash packaging concept. This is in the fledgling stage, but it is very innovative. We hope to launch it in the near future.”

He concurred with other growers in Georgia that this year’s crops are running late. Some of Southern Valley’s crops are about two weeks late and others as much as three weeks later than normal, he said.

“Overall, all of the crops look very healthy,” said Mr. Schwalls. “The delays are all weather-related. The region got hit with some late cold weather and heavy rains which caused a setback. There was also some hail damage reported in Georgia. Now, [April 23] everything is coming on nicely and looking good-it’s just late.”

The company, he added, will start harvesting squash in Georgia on May 1, and all other crops will follow in order directly after. The company expects to wrap up Georgia’s movement as late as July 15, depending on how hot the weather gets.

“We will definitely be done by July 15 — at the very latest,” he said. “That would be a normal wrap-up for us. Then we move on to Tennessee, which is scheduled to start on June 15. This schedule prevents any gaps in our supply movement.”

The company has also added new staff members in the quality-control and quality-assessment departments.

“We are Primus Global Food Sourcing-certified,” Mr. Schwalls noted. “And we have food-safety certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”

The company also supports locally grown initiatives in the regions where it grows.

“Some retailers use our family information to help promote their locally grown programs,” said Mr. Schwalls. “Consumers today want to know who grew the food that they’re eating, and how it was handled. We see this as a highly positive trend, and one that growers such as Southern Valley will only benefit from in the future.”