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Producing Excellence

Emily Smith

Presque Isle, ME

Smith’s Farm

Products Raised or Grown: Broccoli, potatoes and grain

Size of Operation: 3,500

In Business Since: 1808

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit East

Working with Farm Credit Since: 2010

In a state whose predominant crop is potatoes, it might have seemed a strange decision for a centuries-old farming family to start growing broccoli, but market demand encouraged Smith’s Farm to initiate the switch in the 1980s. It is also the driver behind their comprehensive food safety program.

The Smith family came to America in the 1630s and started farming commercially in 1888, expanding to become one of the largest potato producers in Maine. Recognizing increasing consumer demand for broccoli, in the 1990s they completed a decade-long process to transition out of potato farming, and today raise 30 different varieties of broccoli on 4,000 acres, financed in part by Farm Credit of Maine.

“Our whole business has been market driven, and as demand increased, we increased the acres dedicated to broccoli,” says Emily Smith, a 6th generation partner in the family-owned company. Smith’s Farms sells to most every major retailer east of the Mississippi, and their close relationship with these customers let’s them know exactly what to plant to meet their specific needs. “We plant different varieties to accommodate what each store wants for their customers,” she says. “Some like a greener color, some a bluer color; or a fine bead or medium bead, or a thin stalk or a thicker stalk.”

Technology is essential for getting the right product in the right quantity to the right customer. Their Product Traceability Initiative uses barcodes on each carton to identify the farm it came from, the crew that harvested and the date it was harvested. This real-time system enables a salesperson to take and enter an order and have the information conveyed to the cooler and to the field, finding the right variety and getting it shipped to order. “What we cut today could be on the shelf tomorrow,” says Emily.

The company’s technology also supports their food safety program. “We can back up anything that happened on the ground including what we tilled, what fertilizers we used, what varieties we planted, right through to harvest, cooling, icing and shipping,” says Emily. Another aspect of the program is their voluntary food safety audits, conducted at their own expense. “People deserve to know their food is safe, and that their producers are doing it right.”

Download a PDF version of this story here.