Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration Opens in Farmville

September 30, 2014– Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration, LLC held a grand opening today at their manufacturing facility in Pitt County, NC.  With the opening of the facility, the company plans to create more than 50 jobs with an average salary of $38,000.  They have already invested over $16 million in the project.

Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration will be located in the former Collins & Aikman building on West Marlboro Road in Farmville, NC.  The company will dehydrate sweet potatoes to be used in various pet food products for the global market.

Natural Blend will be managed by Ham Produce Company, Inc., which operates one of the largest farming operations of sweet potatoes in North Carolina.  Ham Produce, headquartered in Snow Hill, NC, purchased the Collins & Aikman building in 2009 for the storage of sweet potatoes.  Excess capacity spanning approximately 27,000 square feet has been renovated for Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration’s operation.

“I’m excited to have the construction phase of the project coming to completion and I’m looking forward to working with the growers,” said Bobby Ham, president of Ham Produce Company, Inc.  “We were happy to be able to utilize local contractors on this project.”  Renovations have been underway at the facility since January 2014 to prepare for the opening and are estimated at $5 million so far.

“Natural Blends Vegetable Dehydration is a great project for Pitt County.  Modern food processing, one of our industrial targets, combined with the economic bedrock of agriculture, make this project a win in a multitude of ways,” said Wanda Yuhas, Executive Director of the Pitt County Development Commission.   “Our local and state partners have provided phenomenal support, and company representatives have been wonderful to work with.  We look forward to much mutual success for many years to come.”

The U.S. production of sweet potatoes is more competitive than ever based on growing food safety and quality concerns, including pet foods.  In the harvesting process, a percentage of sweet potatoes are discarded due to shape or size, but not a lack nutritional value.  The dehydration facilities will provide a value-added process that enables the entire sweet potato crop to be used by making use of the discarded sweet potatoes.

“Agriculture and agribusiness is our leading industry in North Carolina with a $78 billion impact. With the addition of new agribusiness ventures such as Natural Blend Vegetable Dehydration, I believe we will soon see this become a $100 billion industry in our state,” said NC Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.   “If we want to continue to grow our economy, we need to focus on our strengths and this opening is great example of the opportunities agriculture provides.  I am proud of the investment this company is making and am excited about the jobs being created.”

Natural Blend has already hired 15 employees, and the project has generated at least 20 new jobs at Ham Produce Company.   “The support we received from Pitt Community College and the NC Commerce Workforce Division has been invaluable in recruiting and training our current staff,” said Stacy Ham, vice president, Ham Produce Company, Inc.

Other partners on the project include the NC Department of Commerce, NC Department of Agriculture, Pitt County, Pitt County Development Commission, Pitt County Committee of 100 and the Town of Farmville.

About Ham Produce Company, Inc.

Ham Produce Company is a family owned and operated grower, packer and shipper of sweet potatoes in other vegetables in Snow Hill and Farmville, NC.  For over 35 years, Ham Produce has been dedicated to growing quality produce, ensuring food safety, and preserving our natural resources.  The company is known for growing great tasting sweet potatoes as well as growing roots in the community.  For more information on Ham Produce, visit their website at http://www.hamfarms.com/.