Sep 4, 2012
New storage and packing facility opens markets

North Bay Produce Inc., a grower-owned fresh produce marketing and distribution cooperative based in Traverse City, Mich., recently opened a new 36,000-square-foot cold storage and packing facility at the Mid America Airport in Mascoutah, Ill.

The goal is to facilitate the forward distribution of perishables from the cooperative’s members, said North Bay President Mark Girardin.

“The new facility is a tremendous asset to us,” Girardin said. “It allows us to move fresh produce more effectively on the grower’s behalf. We can get it to market sooner and in better condition.”

In fact, Girardin said, it’s a “cornerstone facility” that allows 90 percent of North American, and some Mexican, markets to be reached by truck within 24 hours.

“Before, with our Miami, Florida, hub, we were several days trucking in and several days trucking out,” Girardin said. “Now, we have the ability to receive produce, cool it faster than ever before and get it packed and out to markets and onto shelves faster than ever. We are right in the wheelhouse of most all of the major retail chains.”

North Bay will move 1.8 million boxes of produce through the facility this year, Girardin said. They plan to pack 1 million pounds of blueberries from U.S. production.

Blueberries, as well as apples, are a major part of the future plans for the facility, Girardin said.

“World blueberry production is scheduled to double in the coming years,” he said. “We are right in the middle of that growth, logistically. Apples are rapidly growing too, with higher-density plantings and increasing volumes. It’s good for us, good for growers and good for consumers.”

China hub

In addition to domestic shipments, an important part of the project is to facilitate the transit of fresh produce to China and other Asian customers through Mid America Airport, Girardin said.

“This airport is the hub for all produce going in and out of China and the United States,” he said. “We have the facilities and the location to handle that produce. This is really going to help open those Asian markets.”

By Derrek Sigler, Assistant Editor

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