– 50 years of product diversity -
From Colorado to Central America and Florida to Washington State, L&M grows a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to be packed and shipped to their customers.
It didn’t start out big, though. Fifty years ago, a young man named Joe McGee was selling fruits and vegetables in a farmers market in Raleigh, N.C. He had grown up in the produce business and enjoyed the relationships he built with growers, traveling as far as Florida to buy fruits and vegetables for the Raleigh market. In 1964, he partnered with a friend, Bob Logan, and they founded L&M. Logan left soon afterward, but the ”L” stayed in the name.
In 1973, McGee began farming in Palatka with his friend, Charlie Corn, growing potatoes and cabbage. That was when L&M first began to purchase land and equipment, and it opened a packing facility. The farming ventures expanded and today, in just Florida alone, the company farms 6,000 acres in seven counties.
Adam Lytch, L&M’s operations manager, oversees Florida and Georgia growing and warehousing operations. “One of the things that make this company unique is the diversity of the crops it grows,” he said. “We are major players in various categories such as vegetables and potatoes. It’s really gratifying to be able to go into a store and see a whole multitude of our products there.”
L&M’s main products grown in the Southeast are bell peppers, table stock potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, chili peppers, greens, and some eggplant, vine-ripe tomatoes and winter squash.
Farther afield, L&M sells products such as Washington apples, New York cabbage and California onions. The company operates farms in Florida, Georgia and Colorado and partners with growers in other parts of the country through contract arrangements. Everything is sold under the Nature’s Delight brand.
Lytch has been with the company since 2005. He grew up in southeast North Carolina on a row crop and tobacco farm. His family also owned poultry houses and a cotton gin, which it still operates. He graduated from North Carolina State University in Raleigh with a degree in agricultural business management. His path to L&M began at school, where he befriended an L&M employee who gave a presentation in one of his classes. He completed a training program at the company that exposed him to all aspects of the business. After spending time on the grower relations side, he worked his way up to his present position. He joined FFVA’s board of directors in 2009.
Lytch has seen very positive things happening during the last nine years. “One thing I’m excited about is that we’re always working on ways to achieve sustainability. We work closely with the water management districts on projects involving fertilizer applications, water structures and ways of moving water around that leads to decreased water usage,” he said. “One of those water-saving projects is using drip irrigation on crops such as cabbage, which aren’t traditionally grown under drip irrigation.”
The company also works with the Florida Association of Food Banks’ Farmers Feeding Florida campaign. “It’s a good fit for us because we produce such a diverse group of items. We are happy to support their efforts,” Lytch said. Farmers Feeding Florida is a food recovery program that works with farmers and packers in Florida to distribute unmarketable produce to those in need.
Issues that concern Lytch include “pretty much the standard – weather, labor, water,” he said. “Labor is a concern because everything we do is either hand-harvested or hand-graded. It takes a lot of laborers to make all that happen. Without them, obviously we’re not in business anymore. Having a dependable workforce is a major concern.”
In spite of its challenges, Lytch says his job is very satisfying. “I’m proud to be a part of this organization. I really enjoy doing what I do,” he said. “There is so much satisfaction in bringing our products to market. Every part of the process is important — selecting seeds, drawing up planting schedules, deciding how to rotate the land, the actual growing, dealing with Mother Nature, getting the crop to harvest, harvesting it, packing it, handling it properly and finally shipping it and seeing it on the store shelves. I It’s a pretty rewarding process.”
Learn more about L&M’s history, its products and its promise to its customers on its website here.