Farm Fresh Produce has been committed to helping the Sampson County economy grow.
To celebrate those efforts, officials from the county presented a grant check from the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Building Reuse Grant Program to the company, which made a $3.7 million taxable investment and commitment nearly one year ago.
Sampson County Board of Commissioners chairman Clark Wooten presented the $180,000 check to Steven Ceccarelli, president of Farm Fresh Produce, thanking him for the company’s expansion locally.
“The state of North Carolina and Sampson County are pleased to support Farm Fresh Produce as they grow in Sampson County,” Wooten shared. “This is a great example of how the state and county work together to support the development and expansion of a private agriculture enterprise as it grows jobs and adds to investment within Sampson County.”
As part of the grant’s requirements, Farm Fresh Produce committed to make $370,000 in building improvements to an existing 20,000 square foot building. The company’s building improvements and other commitments have been completed, documented and approved by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Farm Fresh Produce officially opened the 62,400-square-foot facility on Keener Road at the end of last year. In addition to the packing plant that sits on the company’s 44-acre site, the land houses the 20,000-square-foot renovated building. The total investment was estimated at $3,715,000 and has employed 61 full-time employees.
According to Jerry Buczeck, chief operating officer for Farm Fresh, the company continues to grow, has recently leased the 65,000 square foot facility on Hwy. 24 that was once Allen Canning Company.
Farm Fresh Produce was started in Faison by Ceccarelli as a produce marketing and selling company. In its first year, the company employed six people and had approximately $12 million in sales, with approximately $10 million of those sales being in sweet potatoes.
In 2015, the company established Farm Fresh Produce Packing and started a sweet potato packing operation on Beaver Road, that is co-owned by Ceccarelli and Joe Dan Pope. This plant employs 25 people seasonally, and ships approximately 100 to 150 containers of sweet potatoes per week from the plant. According to the release, approximately 90 percent of the sweet potatoes packed at this facility are exported, utilizing ports in Charleston, S.C. and Norfolk, Va.
In early 2016, when the county began working with the company to encourage the establishment of a second sweet potato storage and packing operation, the company was considering other states.
“North Carolina is number one in the United States sweet potato production and Sampson County is a leader in this crop within our state,” Wooten said. “It is exciting to support his crop in our county. From growing, packing and distributing sweet potatoes, Farm Fresh Produce is a family business and a great example of Sampson County’s agriculture heritage.”
The Sampson County commissioners approved a tax incentive package for Farm Fresh Produce. The performance-based incentive agreement offers more than $70,000 in grant-back tax incentives to the company, to be distributed in gradually descending amounts from $15,019 in year one to $13,525 in year five. The county will receive the full $123,695 in tax revenue from years 6-10.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.