b'For most U.S. produce growers, seasonal crops areperfect enough to be on the fresh vegetable aisle, it can distributed equally between supermarkets and big- be chopped and frozen.box retail stores. The other half is sold to foodservice distributors that supply fresh fruits and vegetables toAfter enlisting assistance from the U.S. Economic schools, restaurants, and other institutional customers,Development Administration, the development authority all of which either closed entirely or moved to limitedis moving forward in establishing a food processing service during the height of the pandemic.facility for chopping, canning, and flash freezing regionally grown vegetables.The sudden decrease in the foodservice market left produce growers with limited options to sell their crops.We started last year talking to our larger farmers; the In addition, given the highly perishable nature of mostones we knew had to commit enough volume for this to fresh fruits and vegetables, many growers, includingwork, says Grogan. Plans include any farmer that grows those in Colquitt County, could not switch to otherto industry standards. They have to be able to guarantee marketing channels. the quality of food. In an attempt to limp through the crisis, some growersConstructed at the Citizens Business Park, on land started selling directly to consumers; however, it wasntthe development authority owns, the Colquitt County enough to compensate for the significant decrease inAgricultural Processing Facility is an estimated $90 the foodservice distribution market. million project, including $50 million for building and $40 million in equipment costs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, about a third of fruits and vegetables raised on commercialGrogan says there are multiple funding layers, including farms go unsoldamounting to approximately $161financial support from the development authority and billion in yearly waste.the Colquitt County Board of Commissioners, plus state and federal grants. Weve known this was an issue before COVID, but the pandemic exacerbated the situation, says BarbaraIts a long process, but we are going to keep working Grogan, executive director of Moultrie-Colquitt Countytoward it, she says. This has been a missed financial Development Authority. On average, a crop yieldsopportunity for our farmers. The processing facility about 70% of what is considered perfect, meaningwill give growers in the region a new venue to sell their no blemishes or spots, and sold to supermarkets. Theproduce. remainder is discarded.selectmoultrie.comWhile aesthetics are essential for fruits and vegetables sold on the grocery store aisle, Grogan says, If its not Are you receiving the South Georgia Insider?Now more than ever, its essential to keep up with business and community news from the South Georgia region. Sign-up at sgamag.com34 SG MAGAZINE| WINTER 2022 BUSINESS + CULTURE35'