Troy Bland Details Bland Farms' Production and Operational Advancements, New Packaging, and More
GLENNVILLE, GA - Bridging the gap between seasoned experience and leading-edge strategies is both an art and a science sought for by many and achieved by a unique group. Many in fresh produce rise to this standard, including grower powerhouse, Bland Farms. Customers have long relied on Bland Farms for its innovation, dedication to providing value through quality and customer service, and long-standing commitment to excellence. With such standards driving the company’s success, Chief Executive Officer Troy Bland joined me to discuss the Bland strategy and how its production, harvesting, and growing operations support these tenets.
“If I could put our vision into two simple phrases, I would say: Rooted in Tradition. Raised to be Sweet. It’s more than a tagline. It’s who we are and who we have been for almost 75 years,” Troy tells me. “You hardly ever see a farming operation, or a family farm, start out doing the growing and the selling. We have always been a vertically integrated farm from field to shelf. It gives us greater quality control and a better understanding of the consumer. Also, it gives our customers peace of mind, because they are dealing directly with the farmer.”
This vertically integrated model keeps Bland Farms consciously assessing its benchmarks and, right now, one of those is to have the storage and drying capacity so that the company can get its onions out of the field as quickly as possible and start the cold chain process immediately. This mission allows Bland to provide a better-quality product for a longer period.
“We installed a state-of-the-art packing facility that is entirely controlled atmosphere, allowing for precise control of humidity, airflow, and temperature throughout every stage of the drying and packing process,” Troy reveals.
While Bland is always looking at the cutting-edge opportunities available in the market, the company also balances the science of production with the art of harvesting.
“We have always harvested our sweet onions by hand which is labor-intensive. There are emerging technologies out there as it relates to mechanical harvesting that we are monitoring. However, the reason they are harvested by hand is that onions, particularly sweet onions, are delicate,” he shares. “We like to lead and embrace innovation but whatever direction we go, quality will remain our top priority.”
As we look to the horizon, Troy highlights an evolving development in the works: Bland Farms is putting more emphasis on organically grown onions in Peru and Mexico to be able to produce organics 52 weeks a year.
“On top of that news, we are also in our second year of our joint sweet potato venture, Sand Candy Produce, with growers in North Carolina diversifying our growing regions to provide year-round supply. Additionally, we are offering customers programs that combine sweet potato and sweet onion deliveries on the same truck to lower costs and increase delivery frequencies,” he notes before further elaborating on the benefits of Bland’s program for retailers. “We have our Peru’s coming in, and it looks like a phenomenal crop for our customers. We have an exciting tailgating-themed fall promotion called Gameday Sweetness to help our retailers build more excitement in their stores.”
Additionally, Troy and the team are getting ready to plant next spring’s Vidalia onions.
“Our new Sand Candy packaging will be launching in the fall for our sweet potatoes, and we also offer a holiday bin to display onions and sweet potatoes together,” Troy says.
He then jumps to the conversation underlying most messages these days, adding that there are still challenges managing shipping costs, but being a premium partner helps to buffer that toll.
“With Savannah being such a popular port, the growing port traffic poses its own unique logistic challenges. All in all, we are fortunate to have the Port of Savannah in our backyard, especially during Peru season,” Troy details, adding that, with such challenges throughout the supply chain these days, the company knows that it must keep the value high to balance such economies. “Bland Farms continues to reinvest in the company to create and implement innovative ideas and processes to bring the highest quality sweet onion to market. It’s all about the consumer. Give them what they want, and they will come back for more, and they have been for almost 75 years.”
Seventy-five years of success, resilience, and standard-setting practices are worth their weight in gold. And that currency is found in the coveted Bland Farms sweet onion and sweet potato programs.