The sweet potato is so important to the farming economy of North Carolina that, in 1993, a group of fourth grade students from Wilson, N.C. were encouraged to began a letter writing campaign on its behalf. As a result, North Carolina gained a state vegetable.
Rewind 10 years to 1983. Linwood "Sonny" Scott, Jr. began the transition of the family's, then, 5,000 acre farm to diversify between tobacco, wheat, and soybeans with the addition of, the state's sweet heart vegetable, sweet potatoes. Growing sweet potatoes was a natural progression in the expanding family farm due the the increased consumption and visibility of the root vegetable. Today, N.C. is the leading producer of sweet potatoes in the nation and grows approximately 50% of all sweet potatoes grown in the U.S..
"Sonny", with the help of his wife, Alice (Honeycutt) Scott, made the transition and committed to growing a high quality, stable, and consistent crop. Quickly becoming one of the largest and best respected producers in the region, further expansion was needed. Work began to develop a plan to make certain only the highest quality plants were used in production at Scott Farms. The establishment of a micro-propagation plan was in order. With a clear cut vision for the future of sweet potato production, "Sonny" enlisted the help of his sons Linwood H. Scott, III and Dewey R. Scott. Together, they quickly developed a method for growing and packing a high quality, consistent sweet potato and the modern operation was born.
Micro-propagation was only the beginning for the forward-thinking Scott family. With decades of production under their belts, the Scott's continued to innovate. Finding better and more efficient ways to operate, they quickly became a leader in the industry. Mechanization was taking place in other areas of the family's farm, why not apply the same mindset to the growing, packing, and shipping of sweet potatoes.
In September, 2013, visions and plans were drawn and construction began on a 50,000 sq. ft. sizing, grading, and packing facility in the heart of the family's Lucama, N.C. based farm. Over the next 18 months, Dewey began to execute those plans and that vision would become a reality. Under the watchful eye of a newly acquired and highly technical trained staff, the new facility went into full scale operation in April, 2015.
Scott Farms now employs the only state-of-the-art sizing, grading, and packing system of its kind for fulfillment of sweet potatoes in the world. Having the ability to offer Global GAP Certified and fully PTI compliant product has propelled Scott Farms directly into 21st century farming and food production. With the ability to trace back product to the source, it gives added security to those that enjoy their products.
In the field, the Scott's are no stranger to hard work and dedication. Following a strict regimen, provided by their proven process, Dewey, a graduate of Barton College and the North Carolina State University CALS’ Leadership Development Program, insisted the micro-propagation program must expand and implemented a steadfast system of ensuring only the best plants be used. As a part of this plan, and work with N.C. State University, the system of no more that two generations of the same plant strain would be used in the growing of sweet potatoes at Scott Farms.
Transplanting of the slips that are so carefully selected and nurtured requires a level of expertise and precise handling. This is where the plan makes leaps and bounds in the industry. Proper techniques must be maintained to ensure the life of the new crop and special care implemented once transplanting is complete.
During the growing season (June - September), field tests are done to monitor the growing progress of the crop. Once it is determined that the sweet potato have reached the peak in size and quality the sweet potatoes are harvested and the curing process begins.
Scott Farms uses a unique process of curing sweet potatoes in an environmentally controlled facility that yields a near field quality product for up to one year after harvest. The process of curing and storing more than 1.6 million bushels makes certain Scott Farms can offer a 12-month supply of the highest quality sweet potatoes on the market. Once they are ready for packing, the 50,000 sq. ft. packing facility springs into action sizing, grading, and packing at a rate of 60 cases per minute. Unmatched by any company in the industry, the process at Scott Farms is one to behold.
Everything considered, in a relatively short period of time of cultivating, what some scientists believe to be a 10,000 year old crop, the Scott's have drastically changed the way we get our sweet potatoes today.
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