The first crop they plan to focus on is snap beans. The producers grow a spring and fall crop of snap beans. The harvested beans will be washed, end-snipped, bagged and ready to cook for consumers and the food service industry.

Market research has assessed the need for controlled-atmosphere packaging and multiple bag sizes (2 pound, 5 pound and 10 pound) to suit the various target markets. The packaging will extend the shelf life of the beans and reduce prep time for the consumer or chef. Greater convenience of using fresh produce is expected to increase consumption.

In most grocery stores, snap beans are currently washed, crated and displayed loose on the produce shelf. Individual customers typically use their bare hands to bag the quantity of beans they want to purchase. The risk of exposure to contamination by a pathogen carried on someone’s hand would be eliminated by offering a bagged product.

While there are no current regulations that address this risk, there is pending legislative action that could affect the open shelf display of fresh produce. These producers see the opportunity to help lead the industry toward an alternative display option.

The group currently is seeking a facility to run year-round, using their products and some sourced from others. North Carolina-grown produce is available from early June through late November.  In addition to snap beans they plan to add other products such as tray-packed sweet corn and broccoli florets.

Along with the three North Carolina producers who currently make up the Hyde County producer group, Rod Parker, owner of Parker Farms in Oak Grove, Va., will also contribute raw product and manage the sales and distribution of the value-added products. Since they already have an established presence in the retail market with their fresh product, he believes it will be a simple matter of asking retailers to consider a new product package.

With the help of NCVACS and funding from the USDA, the Daughtrys hope to establish a more solid future for these participating farmers. They will capture more value, ensure their product remains marketable and move toward managing nearly all aspects of the supply chain for their product, from the production on the farm to a value-added product on the grocery shelf.