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Parker Farms turning challenges into opportunities

parkerfarms22 Spring of 2020 has been strange and challenging, primarily because of the coronavirus, of course, but also because of the unusually cool weather on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, but that hasn’t stopped Parker Farms from having a successful season thus far.

“Fortunately, up until a couple of weeks ago, the product that we were focused on was broccoli, of which 95 percent goes to retailers, and the retail demand has been up anywhere from 15 to 30 percent,” said Sean McFadden, business development manager at Parker Farms, headquartered in Oak Grove, VA. “So the demand for our product has been tremendous. We were very fortunate and blessed that we didn’t get stuck with a lot of product that was committed to the food service side, which couldn’t be sold.”

As the season transitions to include other crops such as squash and peppers, the drastic reduction in the food service sector is a concern, but Parker Farms has done well with the food-service business that does exist and by working with the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

“We’re partnered up with our customers who were selected to be distributors and they’re pulling tremendous amounts of product to go in the boxes, so that’s soaking up about everything that we have in the food service category,” McFadden said. “We are proud to play our part in this important program designed to help families in need during this crisis.”

On May 19, Rod Parker, one of the company’s founders, visited the White House, where he met President Donald J. Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to discuss farming and specialty crop issues.

“He was there with four other farmers from Virginia, to discuss the new USDA programs recently rolled out and how they are benefiting various sectors of the ag economy in Virginia specifically, but overall too,” McFadden said.

In terms of crops, Parker Farms made a big jump in sweet corn by adding approximately 800 new acres this spring by partnering with Pine Cliff Growers, and its acreage in broccoli, mostly in Georgia and some in Virginia, also has increased significantly.

“Those are huge points of growth for us right now, corn and broccoli,” McFadden said. “We also have an outstanding new pepper grower/partner in South Georgia who we hope to develop a long -term relationship with.”

Parker Farms has also benefitted from an overall increase in demand for broccoli, from the South to Virginia and to New York state. Another noteworthy development is an increase in organic broccoli production.

“We’re shipping eastern grown organic broccoli all summer long now, from Georgia, Virginia and upper New York state,” McFadden said.

In Virginia, the season has been affected somewhat from the spring weather, which has seen some chilly mornings.

“We did have some cool, cool weather and, in fact, a very late frost, which really knocked some things on their heels, crop wise,” he said. “So we’re probably about 10 days behind where we’d like to be at this point with our broccoli, squash and sweet corn.”

He added that the company is dedicated to providing its customers with the finest service while creating excellent value for growers, “We have an extremely dedicated and focused group of employees who work hard to be sure both of these goals are met every day.”

“Parker Farms’ success is ultimately measured in terms of the success of our grower/partners McFadden said. “We can make every customer in the world happy but if our growers aren’t happy and don’t prosper, then we haven’t done our job. Our motto is ‘Growers First,’ and our goal is to make them profitable, that’s what will keep us in business as a trusted supplier for the next 50 years.”

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