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Southern Produce Distributors in good sweet potato condition

On Sept. 20, Kelley Precythe, vice president of Southern Produce Distributors Inc., headquartered in Faison, NC, told The Produce News that the company was eagerly looking forward to exhibiting at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit in New Orleans, Oct. 18-20. The company is a major grower, marketer and shipper of sweet potatoes, although it does delve into other fresh produce items.

spd-picsc2012-251aKelley Precythe, vice president, with his father, Stewart Precythe, president of Southern Produce Distributors.“Besides myself, our sales manager, Brenda Oglesby and other company representatives will be at our booth, number 5604, at the Fresh Summit to greet and meet with existing customers and to introduce our company, its products and services to new prospective clients,” said Precythe. “We will be promoting our sweet potato line, which we ship across North America and to offshore countries. Our goal for having a presence at this show is to broaden our contact portfolio.”

He added that the PMA Fresh Summit is also a great opportunity to learn about new and growing trends in the industry, and to stay abreast of new marketing possibilities.

“We have also launched a new item that we’ll be promoting at the Fresh Summit,” said Precythe. “It’s a one- and one-half pound bag of steamable or microwavable sweet potatoes. Consumers just toss the bag into the microwave or steamer, and you have a perfect dish for a family meal.”

He added that although the company was still working out the exact details in September, it would be sharing sweet potato samples to visitors at the Fresh Summit, and he extended an invitation to all visitors at the event to stop by the company’s booth.

In 1894, Henry C. Precythe founded what eventually evolved into Southern Produce Distributors. The company was operated under his name until his death in 1933. Today, his grandson, Kelley Precythe’s father, Stewart Precythe, is president of the company. Kelley joined the company following his graduation from Cape Fear Community College in 2003 with a degree in business.

The company is committed to fundraising for scholarship support. When Harold S. Precythe, Stewart’s father, died in 1984, some produce professionals came together wanting to do something in his memory. That became an annual Memorial Golf Tournament at the Southern Wayne Country Club in Mount Olive, NC.

“The tournament continues today,” said Stewart Precythe. “The first year we raised five or six thousand dollars, but over the following years it raised over half a million dollars for scholarship funding. It funds three scholarships each year. As of today we have gifted over 32 scholarships.”

Southern Produce Distributors was in the process of digging sweet potatoes in mid-September. Stewart Precythe said that although crops throughout the eastern portion of the country are down, the company will have plenty of product to service its customers in the coming year.

“Wet weather in the spring during setting time set everyone back,” he said. “There were about two weeks that we couldn’t put plants in the ground.”

“But, we had increased our acreage by 20 percent this year, which helped us to compensate for the smaller overall crop,” he continued.

“Between our added acreage and some sound strategic planning with our growing partners, we’ll be in very good condition in the coming year. We’re still shipping stored sweet potatoes from last year’s crop, so what is being harvested now is going directly into storage. We’ll be harvesting until Nov. 15-20 to get this crop out of the ground in the best possible condition.”