and the 2007 Farm Bill
Are the Big Three Issues
The Tomato Magazine
By Sandy Lindblad Lee
During his tenure as chairman of the
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
(FFVA), Jay Taylor’s drive to make a positive
impact on the future of Florida agriculture
stems from a more personal source.
In addition to his 30-year entrenchment at
the heart of the state’s fresh tomato industry,
he is building on a family tradition of leadership
in the FFVA which goes back to the
“My father (Jack Taylor) was on the
organizing committee for FFVA when it was
started,” he explains.
Since its formation in 1943, FFVA
remains “the leading voice of Florida agriculture,” Taylor
emphasizes, while quoting from the organization’s motto.
Taylor also is chairman of Taylor& Fulton, Inc., a Palmetto-based
growerpacker-shipper operation marketing fresh
tomatoes year round.
Taylor is an enthusiastic FFVA supporter.
The association has a strong reputation and
enjoys an infl uential position in unifying
and directing the future of the fresh fruit
and vegetable industry, both statewide and
nationally, he says.
“The FFVA, Western Growers
Association, Produce Marketing Association
and United Fresh Produce Association are
the dominant produce organizations in the
country,” he notes. “And in Florida, the
FFVA, without doubt, is one of the most
effective agricultural organizations.”
Three primary issues impacting agriculture
today are food safety, immigration
reform and the 2007 Farm Bill, Taylor says.
Addressing the three are the association’s top
ood safety is a key concern that must
be addressed nationally,” he stresses. “We
need to come up with a way to respond to
that need in the most effi cient and cost-effective
“We are audit-exhausted,” he frowns,
summing up the feelings of many as they
face ongoing compliances with mandated
requirements issued from a multitude of private
and government-affi liated sources. This
fatigue continues to resonate through all levels
of the produce distribution chain, he says.
“We need to develop more long-term,
efficient monitoring solutions that help
ensure the delivery of a healthy, safe product
to consumers,” he says, stressing that food
safety needs to be more than a marketing
At the same time, Taylor hastens to
emphasize the critical importance of efficient
“We can trace our tomatoes back to the
specific box in which they were packed,” the
FFVA chairman adds. “We can even trace
back to irrigation records in specific fields.”
While there are ongoing efforts from
lobbyists and organizations to influence what may be included in the
2007 Farm Bill,
Taylor says he’s observed unprecedented
support for specialty crops from Mike
Johannes, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
Such has not been the case with his past
“We’re going to have a very different seat
at the table during this round,” he adds. “As
a farmer, it’s wonderful to hear the U.S. Ag
Secretary take more interest in the importance
of fresh produce.
“Fruits and vegetables represent over 50
percent of the production value in this country,
but grain crops get 95 percent of the federal
funding,” he points out. “We have a very
divergent group that is working to help pump
more money into market access development
and other tools to help us do a better job.”
In his role as FFVA chairman, Taylor
plans to do his part to help direct a positive
course for the fresh produce industry. He is
aided by wisdom and input from one of the
men who helped the organization get started
over 60 years ago. Although Jack Fulton died in 1996,
his infl uence on both the FFVA and the
tomato business he founded are expected to
Extensive History in the Business
Taylor’s family history in fresh produce
dates back before the organization of Taylor&
“My dad had been a fruit and vegetable
inspector,” Taylor recalls. When given
the opportunity to lease a packinghouse
in Palmetto from Max Cohen, the original
owner, Jack Taylor and friend Pete Fulton
took the fi rst step in starting their own
Founded in 1953, Taylor & Fulton’s
Palmetto operations are headquartered on the
original location in Palmetto. Over the years,
however, much has changed.
In 1970, Pete Fulton decided to retire. At
that point, Jay Taylor’s brother, John, was
already running a family farm. John joined
the company in 1967.
Soon after he earned his B.S. degree in
business administration from the University
of Miami, Jay became involved with the
“We didn’t actually buy this building
until the mid-70s,” Taylor remembers.“
Since then, we have bought up the neighborhood” surrounding
the original real estate to accommodate several expansions for
increased effi ciencies and for the addition of
the Roma tomato operations.
The original warehouse was rebuilt in
four different stages. “During the tear-down
process, we decided to keep parts of the
original wood floor intact,” he smiles. Those
sections of that original flooring now provide
added cushioning for the packing machines
when the lines are running.
In 1971, Taylor & Fulton became the
fi rst tomato company to build and provide
employee housing for its workers. Presently,
Palmetto has over 130 units.
Taylor’s commitment to housing for
agricultural employees led to his eventual
appointment to the board of the Florida
Housing Finance Corporation, the housing
authority for the state of Florida. During
his tenure on the board, over $155 million
in funds were invested in improvements
and additions for the state’s farm worker
Taylor & Fulton took its initial step to becoming a
year-round tomato supplier when a Virginia operation was
added. Jay Taylor had spent fi ve summers working for Jim DiMare in sales
at Byrd Foods in Parksley, Va. This
was prior to the company’s Eastern Shore investment in
the mid-1980s, which extended its seasonal tomato production
and distribution through the summer. The most
recent expansion to the Eastern Shore division was the
addition of a Roma tomato packing facility four years
Closing in on the target of providing uninterrupted
tomato supply availability to customers, Taylor & Fulton
added its north Florida packing and shipping division in
1989. Although the company operations were originally
housed at the State Farmers Market in Quincy, Fla., they
were later relocated to a state-of-the-art packing facility
acquired from Pacific Tomato Growers.
The dream became a reality when Taylor & Fulton
owners took the defi nitive steps to accomplish their
ultimate goal. In 2003, Jay and John Taylor, along with
Ed Angrisani, their sales manager, purchased 50 percent
ownership in Tomato Man Inc., an Immokalee, Florida operation.
Their investment in this winter production region in south-central
Florida provided closure of the remaining tomato production
In June 2005, the Taylors and Angrisani bought the remaining
half of Tomato Man from former co-owner Bill O’Quinn, when he
With eight growing seasons in four locations, “We are uniquely
and strategically located to effi ciently complete our year-round deal,” notes Taylor.
Company Continues to Evolve
Today, this progressive company, which maintains a well-earned
position amidst the list of the leading tomato organizations in the
country, continues to evolve. In late November, prior to the kickoff
of this winter’s packing season, added improvements were made at
the Immokalee packing facility. Upgraded equipment was installed,
and the facility was refurbished from top to bottom. More than half of
the ripening and refrigeration rooms now have new refrigeration
systems. Tomato Man’s bin system was also improved, and now uses
all plastic macro bins. The company’s chlorination and hot water
system were also upgraded. Updated Primuslabs.com food safety
certifications were another upgrade.
Production was also added from this region when Tomato Man
added two Immokalee-area growers to its two established growers
this season, Taylor reports.
When Immokalee’s tomato season winds down in April, spring
tomato production resumes in the Palmetto-Ruskin region and continues
into early June.
“Our biggest change here recently has been
the purchase of two large ranches in the area,” Taylor says. These
expected to provide more growing options.
On the heels of Palmetto’s spring production, tomato harvest is
underway in Quincy through the end of June.
At that point, Taylor & Fulton switches its central operations to
Virginia, with production, packing and distribution through July,
August and September. “We also grow wheat and soybeans in
Virginia, along with winter wheat with no-till as a second crop,” the
entrepreneur says. This is accomplished through Tri-Co Grain, a subsidiary
of Taylor & Fulton Inc.
Following the October switch back to Quincy, the November and
early-December tomato supply base shifts back home to Palmetto to
complete the year-round cycle.
In any of its four packing locations, Taylor & Fulton has “in
excess of a 100-car capacity for ripening and refrigeration,” Taylor
points out, “and we can pack more than 60,000 packages per day.” Whatever the growing region, Taylor & Fulton’s
dedication to quality tomatoes runs deep. Taylor believes optimum growing
are a requirement for yielding the best-possible product, and the
company considers drip irrigation a mandatory step in the process.
Among the fi rst Florida tomato growers to implement this method,
Taylor & Fulton began its commitment to drip in 1982. All of the
company’s fi elds now utilize this effi cient, water-saving technique.
© 2007 Columbia
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