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Producing Excellence

Vineland Cooperative Produce Auction Association, Inc.

Vineland, NJ

Vineland Cooperative Produce Auction Association, Inc.

Type of Operation: Produce auction

Size of Operation: 6.5 million packages

In Business Since: 1931

Farm Credit Partner: CoBank

Working with Farm Credit Since: before 1993

Getting produce from the field to the customer efficiently enough so it remains fresh and wholesome can be a logistical challenge. Vineland Produce Auction in New Jersey – the Garden State – has taken on that challenge and delivered an effective solution for local growers for more than 80 years.

Vineland Produce Auction is a cooperative, owned by its 150 member-farmers who raise a wide variety of vegetables and herbs ranging from arugula to zucchini and include fruit such as blueberries and peaches. The primary buyers for the produce are distributors and brokers who then sell into retail stores and restaurants – 6.5 million packages of fresh produce a year.

Back in the day, the auction was a live event with buyers lined up to bid on the farmers’ bounty. Today, technology has simplified matters dramatically: Vineland Produce Auction operates a remote auction, conducting events via computer so that buyers don’t need to even leave their desks. These auctions are held six mornings a week from mid-April through November, with different products offered based on the harvest schedule. “This was the most significant change we’ve made,” says Carol DeFoor. “It has allowed us to expand our customer base to more remote buyers, since they don’t have to be in the auction arena to buy from us.”

Once a purchase has been made, the individual farmer delivers directly to the buyer – Vineland Produce Auction itself doesn’t handle or ship the product, eliminating a step that would diminish freshness. Instead, the cooperative has 130,000 square feet of loading docks for member-farmers and buyers to use to facilitate their transactions, with produce delivered daily. The cooperative also offers state-of-the-art cooling facilities for its members’ use, equipment that can cool up to 200,000 packages in a 24-hour period, maintaining temperatures from 0 to 50 degrees. This cooling facility, along with other equipment and facility upgrades, has been financed by CoBank, a lender selected because of its long history of working with agribusiness cooperatives, says Carol. The cooperative also operates an ice house that provides blown and bagged ice for farmers, and a warehouse that sells supplies such as cartons, crates, rubber bands, greenhouse plastic, mulch and drip tape.

The conservative yet progressive decisions made by the board of directors, which leads Vineland Produce Auction’s operations as well as governance, have delivered concrete results: not only does the cooperative obtain good prices for its farmers’ crops, it has also delivered financial dividends each year to its member-growers.

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