By Clint Thompson
One of the largest produce farmers in Georgia is nervous about the impact the coronavirus impact is having on produce farmers in the Southeast.
Bill Brim, part owner of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia, is in the middle of harvesting some of his fruits and vegetables and has already seen a decrease in demand, amid the virus leading to closures of restaurants nationwide.
“Our greens and broccoli season, it’s way down. We’ve lost thousands of boxes of orders because of this coronavirus,” Brim said. “We’re not harvesting right now unless we have an order on greens, (otherwise) we’d just have to dump it. We’re just not able to sell it. Food service has just dropped down where, we were doing two or three loads per week for food service, just on kale, and it’s gone to nothing.
“It’s way down from what it normally is.”
Brim said his produce is divided 60% food service to 40% retail. Like his brethren in Florida, Brim has been impacted by the orders of self-quarantine.
“When it first started with the coronavirus down in Florida, prices were real high. Cucumbers went from $42 per box to $10 per box and then to no sales at all down in Florida,” Brim said. “They’re harrowing up cucumber fields and squash fields. Anything that’s on bare ground they’re harrowing it up and getting rid of snap beans and sweet corn. It’s not good.”
Lewis Taylor Farms grows more than 6,500 acres of produce each year. Brim produces strawberries, turnips, mustard, kale, collards and broccoli as part of his farming operation. A once hopeful outlook for the 2020 season has soured quickly.
“Crop’s coming on, looks good, I just hope we’ll have a market to send it,” Brim said.
Brim established himself as an industry leader when he, along with Ed Walker, purchased Lewis Taylor Farms in 1985. Over the next five years, Brim helped transform Lewis Taylor Farms into a diversified transplant and vegetable production farm operation.
When Brim became a co-owner of Lewis Taylor Farms, it had only 87,000 square feet of greenhouse production space. The farm now boasts 81 greenhouses with more than 649,000 square feet of production space.