RC Hatton Farms projects good sweet corn harvest

PAHOKEE — RC Hatton Farms grows nearly 12,000 acres of sweet corn, green beans and other vegetables throughout South Florida and parts of southern Georgia, taking advantage of the rich soil on the eastern shore of Lake Okeechobee.

“Spring brings about big corn volume, and we are geared up for a big corn volume here for April and May in Florida,” said Paul Allen, co-owner and president of the company. “We grow about 1,500 acres of spring corn each year.” Unlike most farms, the company doesn’t pack corn in the field; instead, it hauls it in specially designed, reinforced bins to the RC Hatton packinghouse, crafting it to the specifications of customers, and doing so inside a controlled environment.

During the process, the corn is hydro-chilled in order to remove field heat and to keep its sugars from turning into starch, and then stored in a climate-controlled warehouse, where it is inspected by company quality-control experts.

Mr. Allen, who also serves as the president of the Sunshine Sweet Corn Growers of Florida Association, noted that the industry as a whole is expecting good volume in 2019 — at least a very “manageable volume” for the spring months. A mild winter has resulted in an above-normal supply of March corn.
“From a marketing standpoint, it’s not an oversupply and seems to be a perfect match for historical shipping volumes,” he said.

“Acres are down a little bit from where it was last year, especially in April, but it’s a beautiful crop, very high-quality.”

Last year at this time, there was a lot of rain in Florida that affected the sweet corn harvest in late season and hurt sales for Memorial Day, but that doesn’t seem to be a concern in 2019.

“Consumption of sweet corn is increasing,” Mr. Allen said. “The high quality of the eating and the sweetness of the corn, consumers just love, which has added to the demand.”

Sunshine Sweet Corn Farmers of Florida co-brands with Fresh From Florida with its Sunshine Sweet brand and works with them to market the product.

“The Fresh From Florida brand helps us combat the Mexican trade agreement, which is not advantageous for Florida produce,” he said. “When an American buyer sees our product is from Florida, they are going to buy ours before they buy from another country.”

Part of the secret to success for the company is that many of its employees have been part of the team for more than 25 years and they take great pride in creating a strong culture and keeping employees and customers happy. Also, a 68-year relationship with Hugh Branch Inc. marketing its product has resulted in the farm’s sustainability.

“The culture of our company is that we are more concerned about what we can do for our employees than what they can do for us,” Mr. Allen said.

RC Hatton also grows cabbage and approximately 4,500 acres of sugarcane and is a part of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida and United States Sugar Corp.

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