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R.C. Hatton increases cabbage production

R.C. Hatton Inc. prides itself on offering high-quality green beans, sweet corn and cabbage from farm-to-table. The Pahokee, FL-based company currently grows about 8,000 acres and its production continues to increase year after year.

“We have a lot of young, talented employees who are growing in our company and we are excited about the future,” said Jonathan Allen, R.C. Hatton’s farm manager for cabbage and organics. “We are trying to be more efficient than we already are and envision more growth in the years to come.”

lalalalaThe R.C. Hatton cabbage crop is up about 150 acres this year, an increase of approximately 40 percent.When fall comes around, the company makes the switch from Georgia to Florida, and harvest begins on the crops near its Lake Okeechobee farm to supply year-round production to its customers.

“We look to take advantage of those holiday windows of Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said

Maria Cavazos, R.C. Hatton’s controller. “During this time, we start planting cabbage, which will be ready in the winter.”

The Lake Okeechobee area is known for its rich and fertile “black gold” soil, which also helps the company grow its sugar cane. Cavazos said that during the colder months, the lake creates a mild “microclimate,” which allows for a long growing season for its produce.

“If there is a freeze in the winter months, the temperatures around the lake are a little higher, which helps,” she said. “Even a 5-degree difference can be a big deal when you’re talking temperatures around 35-40 degrees.”

For the 2018-19 fall Florida growing season, the company will grow about 1,800 acres of green beans and 3,000 acres of corn, both in line with last year’s numbers. However, the cabbage crop is up about 150 acres this year, an increase of approximately 40 percent, to accommodate new demand in the product.

“Everything is looking good as far as the crops for the fall season,” Cavazos said. “We’re proud to support the community and we take pride in what we do. That leads to success.”

Not surprisingly, Allen said labor is one of the biggest challenges the company faces today. That’s why two years ago the company made the decision to switch from in-house to contracting labor.

“Now, we are using H-2A and that’s been a good program and one we think will be a game changer for ag,” he said. “Labor is obviously not what it used to be. We try to bring costs down and still put out a quality package.”

R.C. Hatton is doing its best to not overuse chemicals and fertilizers and is conscious of utilizing clean water.

“We also have been using variable rate application, which makes it more efficient when you’re spraying fertilizer or sulfur before you plant your crop,” Allen said. “If your land has different pHs, you can apply what’s needed.”