New talent at Bland Farms poises company for bright future
Sweet onion category leader continues to attract and develop brightest talentGLENNVILLE, GA. (July 16, 2012) – Bland Farms is poised to push forward as the sweet onion category innovator and market leader, knowing that the company is now better equipped and more prepared to meet the challenges of a growing company in the fresh produce industry. John Cameron Joins Bland Farms as Director of Sales One of the biggest reasons that Bland Farms feels so confident about the immediate and long-term future of the organization is the continued ability to attract and recruit highly talented personnel. As of July 1, John Cameron, formerly of San Antonio based NatureSweet, was hired as Bland Farms’ new Director of Sales. Cameron brings a wealth of knowledge to the organization and a background in retail, which Bland Farms believes will be key in identifying unique, highly customer-focused sweet onion programs. According to Cameron, joining, “a pioneer in the sweet onion category”, was a very exciting opportunity and he plans to replicate the experiences gained in the tomato category to the sweet onion category. Bland Farms CEO Bruce Peterson believes that Cameron’s leadership and fresh point of view will be extremely valuable to the organization, “ I am delighted to welcome John to the Bland Farms team. John is an excellent leader and has a proven track record of success. He will not only add a new dimension to our sales team, but will help to broaden the perspective of our entire leadership team.” Glen Willard hired as Director of Vidalia Brands In addition to John Cameron’s hiring, Bland Farms has also boosted its private label condiment brand, Vidalia Brands, with the hiring of industry veteran Glen Willard. Willard, who joins as Director of Vidalia Brands, arrives from Sensible Sales & Marketing, Inc. where he was President of the Richmond Hill, Georgia, based Food Brokerage Company. Throughout the course of his career Willard has been successful at identifying opportunities and seizing them, which is exactly what he plans to do with Vidalia Brands. According to Willard, Vidalia Brands has big plans, “I’m very excited to be part of the Bland Farms team once again. Vidalia Brands will be the division to watch as we introduce new, innovative and value-added products to the marketplace. Our strategy is to develop products for retail, club, foodservice and industrial sales that will give our customers a competitive advantage.” Troy Bland promoted to Quality Control Director Bland Farms has always maintained a commitment to quality, but amplified its commitment to quality recently by promoting Troy Bland to Quality Control Director. The move signals a heightened focus on quality control throughout the entire supply chain from farm to consumer. Bland says that his goal is to ensure that Bland Farms’ customers, “consistently receive the quality that they have come to expect.” Chief Executive Officer Bruce Peterson is excited to see Bland embrace his new challenge. He views it as a wonderful opportunity for both Bland and the organization, “I’m especially excited about the opportunity to see Troy broaden his influence at the company because of his unique perspective having been raised in this business.” —- Stay up-to-date on Bland Farms news. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Year-round Demand Spurs Growth(From GPA Anchor Age, 1Q 2012) Georgia might be known as the Peach State, but the peach isn’t the only sweet produce that has endeared Georgia farmers to cooks around the country—and around the world. Each year, Georgia grows and ships some 100,000 tons of Vidalia onions to markets both foreign and domestic. It might come as some surprise, then, to learn that Georgia onion producers also import sweet onions from South America.“Georgia does raise a lot of onions, and it’s the Vidalia onion— a flat onion that is very, very sweet,” said Delbert Bland,owner of Glennville-based Bland Farms.“The only problem is you can only grow it one time a year. ”In Georgia, the sweet onions are grown during the winter and harvested in lateApril. Producers can then store the onions for around five months, making the market for Georgia-raised onions from April through September. But what about those folks who have a hankering for a sweet onion in October, or even later in the year? That’s where South American farm sites come in. Chip Hawkins, inside sales manager for GPA Trade Development, said Bland Farms imported 715 40-foot containers in fiscal year 2010. In 2011, that number was 745. The onion grower said the desire to meet a year-round demand led to his company establishing a farm near the coast of Peru. “Peru is divided by the Andes Mountains and the coastline on the west coast side is basically like desert. It’s a very sandy type dirt,” he said. “We grow in those areas,mostly in Ica, which is a community about four hours of south of Lima. ”While the ground is fertile, farming requires wells to be dug for irrigation. In the same region, other companies grow crops such as asparagus. For Bland Farms,the appeal is a similar soil type to Georgia,with an opposite growing season in theSouthern Hemisphere. The same seed planted in Vidalia is sent to Peru in January. “You plant them real close together in the seedbed, then you transplant them up in May,” Bland said. “When we’re harvesting here, we’re planting there. And when we’re planting here, we’re harvesting there. ”Besides extending the sale season, growing produce in both the northern and southern hemispheres has also helped to reduce the impact of a poor growing season in either region, Bland said. Bland first started importing onions from Peru about 15 years ago. Today,about 52 million to 56 million pounds are imported each year, with most weekly shipments transiting the Panama Canal in refrigerated containers and arriving at the Port of Savannah. Because of marketing restrictions, thePeru-raised produce cannot be sold as“Vidalia” onions, but are instead calledBland Farms sweet onions, or Peru sweet onions. Bland said growing the onions in SouthAmerica has actually supported Georgia and U.S. jobs. “It’s provided an opportunity for the people we employ during the Vidalia season, to do the harvesting and packing,to continue that employment all the way through the winter,” he said. “Directly and indirectly, more than 100 people are involved in the Peru onion deal for us. ”Hawkins said the incoming containers are placed on truck chassis, where they are chilled at power outlet stations. The turn-around from the time containers arrive to the time they’re shipped out is from one to three days, depending on USDA inspection schedules. Bland said he is pleased with the service of the Georgia Ports Authority. “The port authority has been excellent to us because they have been very cordial to work with and the service is excellent,”he said. “Service is a very, very important part of this, because you’re dealing with a commodity that doesn’t need to sit around very much. It needs to keep moving.” This article was written by and published in Georgia Ports Authority Anchor Age – 1Q 2012 and can be found in its entirety on their website.
Upgrades Continue at Bland Farms on Several FrontsEver improving and adding to its facilities, Bland Farms LLC has completed more upgrades and has still more that will be done by the time it harvests its first Vidalia onion of the season. “We are upgrading our packinglines,” said Michael Hively, chief financial officer and general manager of the firm. Existing lines are being updated and upgraded with new equipment and software, and six new drying rooms are being constructed. Those new rooms will add 84,000 bushels to the firms drying capacity, bringing the total across all its Vidalia facilities to about 250,000 bushels of drying space. “Over the wintermonths, we completely refrigerated our dock,” so now the firm never breaks the cold chain once product is brought in from the fields. “We process around 40,000 [bushels] a day,” said Delbert Bland, chief executive officer and president, adding, “Our storage capacity is around a million bushels” combined among all the firm’s facilities in Vidalia. In addition to the facility improvements, Bland Farms has also upgraded its staff. Sarah Seebran is the company’s new marketing manager, Adam Blocker is a new salesperson “and we moved Richard Pazderski into” the role of director of sales and marketing, said Mr. Hively. Planting was successful for the firm, with no problems and plenty of H-2A workers. “We were ahead of schedule on planting,” said Mr. Hively. “We finished five days ahead of schedule.” Bland started on Nov. 3 and finished Dec. 17. Vidalia onion acreage is “about the same” as last year with 1,800 acres in production owned by Bland Farms and another 1,300 acres for which it has exclusive contracts. About 200 of the acres are organic Vidalia onions, 200 are red onions and the rest are traditional Vidalia onions. The red onions cannot be marketed as Vidalia onions under the guidelines of the marketing order, but they are sweet onions. “We should have a nice red crop this year,” Mr. Hively said. Mr. Bland added that the firm continues to “tweak” the red onions to further improve their sweetness. Bland Farms is nearly entirely dedicated to the retail market, measuring its sales to that segment at around 96 percent. “We continually try to push more to retail,” said Mr. Pazderski. “That’s our focus.” He noted, however, “we have some great wholesale customers.” Mr. Pazderski said that the firm is refining its marketing message. “We are trying to be more focused in our message and to get our customers to know that if you have a yearround program with us, you know you are getting a consistent and sweet product. As a 52- week shipper, we want our customers to realize the benefit of having the ‘Bland’ label in their stores 52 weeks.” As a part of that effort, the company has developed and is implementing a newmarketing slogan: “When you see Bland Farms … you know it’s sweet.” Along with marketing its onions, Bland Farms’ sales team is now handling the Vidalia Brands product line. Founded by Sandra Bland, Delbert Bland’s wife, the company, which has been acquired by Bland Farms, produces “about 14 different items” such as relishes, sauces and seasonings, said Ms. Seebran. One of the more popular of its products is a blooming onion kit, which contains a recipe, a tool to cut an onion for the recipe, batter mix and a sauce. domain name data “Our customers can do some cross merchandising” with Bland Farms’ onions and the Vidalia Brands product line in the produce department, she said. The products are exclusively made with Vidalia onions year round, using fresh onions in season are chopped and frozen Vidalia onions during the rest of the year. Vidalia Brands products can be purchased from all Bland Farms salespersons, included on the same purchase order and can be shipped with the onions, saving buyers freight costs . “We listened to our customers about what they wanted — what worked and what didn’t,” Ms. Seebran said.
Bland opens Texas facilityPRODUCE NEWS article by Pamela Riemenschneider, Staff Writer Texas production started as a small deal for Bland Farms LLC, but in the three years the Glennville, Ga.-based company has almost doubled. Add that to the company’s new 110,000-square-foot facility in Donna, Texas, and it’s no small matter. Bland Farms originally started growing in Texas to help fill in its year-round program, said Richard Pazderski, director of sales. “We have to service the demand that we have for that 52-week program, and Texas comes at a good time to fill a gap for us,” he said. The company expects to ship 300,000 to 400,000 cartons of onions from south Texas this season, all of which are grown in the Rio Grande Valley region. Bland Farms owner Delbert Bland originally planned to purchase an existing facility to serve as a packing shed and drying facility for the company’s onions, but could not find something that suited his company’s needs, said Michael Hively, chief financial officer and general manager. “The facilities available were all antiquated as far as food safety issues are concerned and that was a tremendous issue for us,” he said. “We wanted something that we could bring our retailers through and be proud to show off.” If Bland Farms was going to build, Hively said, it decided to go big. “We made a commitment that we’d go ahead and build something state of the art with all the bells and whistles from scratch,” he said. The 110,000-square-foot facility, which had its grand opening in November, has equipment for packing and shipping onions, but that’s not all. It is equipped to be an in-and-out facility for Mexican produce crossing the border and for cross-docked goods shipping from Texas to Mexico and other South Texas destinations. The building is equipped with five coolers, including a freezer, and has a capacity of 3,200 pallets. It is centrally located, about 6 miles from two existing border crossings. It also is about 2 miles from the site of another bridge planned for Donna. “It’s a full-service operation,” Hively said. Hively said Bland Farms is seeking more in-and-out business and plans to add onto the facility in the near future.
relevant domains Sometimes you take away some details, but you also add others.” The facility’s name is Bland Distribution Services, and it offers a wide array of services to meet customers’ needs, such as cold storage, logistics, packaging, warehousing or other basic services. It provides FASTrac as an Internet solution for monitoring shipments. FASTrac information service provides customers with 24-hour access to inventory details, shipment status and much more. “Just consider us an extension of your business,” said Mr. Hively. “We will provide customers with the utmost professional and dependable service with satisfaction guaranteed by our trained and experienced staff.” Key staff members of the new facility are John Backer, general manager; Sonia Valdez, finance and operations manager; and Karla P. Antunez, food safety and quality control director. Bland Distribution Services is located in the Rio Grande Valley just minutes from the Hidalgo International Bridge and the Pharr International Bridge. The strategically located platform provides distribution of fresh produce, frozen goods and dry goods between Mexico and the United States. It also houses an on-site U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection office and offers electronic data interchange technology. The facility offers packing and repacking; cross-docking; freight consolidation; short and long-term dry storage; four ozone-capable cold-storage areas with variable independent temperature and humidity control; a freezer storage area; overweight load handling; extended hours of operation; and it has office space available for lease. Overall, it can hold up to 3,200 pallets, or about 160 truckloads, at one time. Delbert Bland, president and chief executive officer of Bland Farms, said, “With food safety such an imperative today, we must do everything possible to make sure the cold chain is not broken and have the ability to pass all necessary certifications.” The facility is certified by Scientific Certification Systems and Primus Labs. It is also certified for Good Manufacturing Practices and HACCP. Bland Farms is a major grower and distributor of year round supplies of sweet onions from numerous locations in the world, and the firm is among the larger producers of Vidalia onions in Georgia. Mr. Bland said that the company initially wanted to introduce itself to the Donna, TX, area, which is a key hub for imports from and exports to Mexico. “We originally went to Texas to purchase a facility for packing onions and cross docking,” said Mr. Bland. “But our research revealed there were no true state-of-the-art facilities. We realized a need for the type of facility that we have designed and developed.” Mr. Bland said that the facility was built to accommodate future expansion. “We plan to expand both cold and dry storage within the next year, and we will even build to suit with an expansion or a separate facility,” he said. “Some people are being more conservative during the current economic crisis and are hesitant to make major moves. But our feelings are contrary to that rationale. We feel it is during these times that major growth initiatives should be made.” Besides handling product from Mexico, Mr. Bland said that there is also demand for U.S. product to move into Mexico. similar sites The biggest need for the new facility is related to trucking issues. American trucks do not always want to go into Mexico, and Mexican truckers cannot always enter the United States due to regulatory issues. “Mexico will continue to be a U.S. trading partner in the future, and trade will only increase over time,” said Mr. Bland. “The Bland Distribution Services facility has the capability of handling all types of goods, and of doing it efficiently and expediently. Regarding produce, we will be moving all seasonal products, including tomatoes, avocados, limes and lemons. In fact, we will be moving everything, from A to Z.” Bland Distribution ServicesBland Farms expands scope of services with new Texas facility BY CHRISTINA DIMARTINO, Produce News (November 17, 2008) Bland Farms has opened a new facility in Donna, TX, that will enhance the Glennville, GA-based company’s ability to service its customers. “The doors of our new Donna, Texas, facility opened the last week of October, and the first product moved through it on Friday, October 31,” Michael Hively, chief financial officer and general manager of Bland Farms, told The Produce News. Construction of the building began in January, and the projected opening was slated for September. But some residual rains from the storms that hit the Gulf region in late summer held up some of the paving and other details. The cost of the new state-of-the-art, 110,000-square-foot facility was originally estimated at about $7 million, but by the time it was completed, the figure had risen to $7.5 million. “We worked with a design team throughout the process, meeting with them on a monthly basis,” said Mr. Hively. “With a project this size, the design is reevaluated as it proceeds.