Richter Produce Announces Historic Merger; Welcomes Generation Farms

“We will strive every day to make the world a better place for the next generation.”

The merger of two major family farms rooted in the South stole major headlines during the Southeast Produce Council Expo in Hollywood, Florida, and quickly circulated in top produce publications that broke the story.

Soon after Richter and Company revealed that Stanley Farms and Coggins Farms were merging under the Generation Farms brand, buyers and reporters swarmed quickly to gather details during the Southern Exposure expo. The official deal was done quietly on March 1, with representatives from both farms and Richter celebrating with a gentlemanly handshake. Most of the current staff from both farms are expected to remain on board.

Richter and Co. has marketed Stanley Farms since the 1970s and will represent the newly formed Generations Farm, as well.

“The coming together of these two farms under one banner is extremely remarkable,” said Kevin Rogers, National Business Development Director for Richter and Co. “To have this much knowledge under one roof is unprecedented. It’s a monumental move for these two families who are creating a first-of-its-kind industry-leading model. By working together, we can accomplish so much more for our consumers and farm families, and more importantly, help secure the livelihood and longevity of the American farmer on whom millions depend daily.

“Our motto is: ‘Striving each day to make the world a better place for the next generation,’” Rogers said. “And that’s what we intend to do, whether that’s exploring better farm practices, developing new ways to conserve natural resources, building stronger bonds between our farm families, or improving working conditions and wages for farm employees.”

Generation Farms is the largest grower, processor, packer and shipper of carrots and sweet onions on the East Coast. It also grows sweet potatoes, green beans, bell peppers, berries and watermelons.

Generation Farms came to fruition when Cotton Wood Agriculture acquired Stanley Farms and Coggins Farms, two legendary produce families. The privately held company is one of many tied to Microsoft mogul Bill Gates.

The Stanleys bring to the table three generations of onion expertise. Their name is synonymous with Vidalia sweet onions and family farming in Vidalia, Georgia. R.T. Stanley began his agriculture career as a sharecropper in 1964 and eventually bought his own land. He grew his first five acres of sweet onions in 1975. Today, Stanley Farms, operated by the patriarch’s sons Tracey, Brian and Vince, grows more than 1,000 acres of onions, including sweet Georgia reds.

The Coggins family, known throughout the Southeast for growing carrots, has a long history of farming innovation and is one of the most knowledgeable in organic crop management. Their agricultural roots began in Georgia three generations ago. Their approach to farming remains as straightforward as it was in the 1940s when Perry Coggins began raising dairy cows and crops: “Quality is mandatory, always produce the best product possible, and treat people right.”

Now with both families on one team, Generation is positioning itself as a catalyst for industry change and part of its mission is to elevate food quality, safety and sustainability to best in class.

Mike Coggins has been named director of ag operations; Vince Stanley is director of production; and his brother, Brian, is director of sales and marketing. The conglomerate is now headquartered in Lake Park, Georgia.

With farmland now spread across Georgia and Florida, Generations is establishing itself as the best alternative to West Coast produce, while holding to its promise to act as good stewards of the environment.

The farms’ management team is a powerhouse of experts who once worked for global agribusiness leaders like BASF, Bayer and Bunge. All that brainpower and expertise is constantly researching next-generation innovations to improve planting, harvesting and packing operations. Behind the scenes, farmers, employees, environmental experts and many more are working to create a company that is the leader in innovation and industry change, not only in food safety, but also in sustainability.

“As much as we were firmly entrenched in the marketplace, I knew we could (never build) the professional organization that we now have,” Vince Stanley said. “This collaboration has done that for us.”

The organization brings together professional accountants, a legal team, food safety experts and a human resources staff. “We even have a new agronomy team that guides our farmers, and a research and development component that is planting test plots, looking at new crops and moving us to the future,” Stanley said.

The mission of Generation Farms is to leave the land much better than they found it so that generations of future farmers can carry forth the tradition.

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