Season: May - September

If we don’t have everything ready by now, it’s too late! Even for the best-organized operations it is very difficult to see to every detail each day. Our seasonal work force increases to about 475 workers who are working on three distinct yet separate main tasks simultaneously: harvesting, packaging, and horticulture tasks. Additionally we have a team of employees who play a support role for each of these activities for a total of around 500 employees.

Hand Picked CropHarvesting peaches is done completely by hand. Pickers select ripe fruit based on a creamy yellow background color and place them in a bag worn around their shoulders. Once the bag is full, the worker transfers the fruit to a plastic bin. Each bin holds approximately 20 bushels of fruit (the equivalent of about 1,000 pounds). Five of these bins are on a wagon that is pulled through the field by a tractor. Harvest crews are made up of 15 people – six workers picking three rows on each side of the trailer (two workers per row), one puncher and two tractor drivers. Working with several harvest crews is a field supervisor ensuring the fruit is harvested properly and is handled as easily as possible. Since all the fruit on a tree doesn’t ripen at one time, the same picking group will generally pick a field five times with two to three days between pickings. This is to ensure that fruit is harvested at its peak stage of readiness, not too ripe that it will be unable to make it through the packing process, but ripe enough to have that sweet flavor our customers expect from a Titan peach. Titan’s reputation in this industry is built upon the quality and consistency of the pack we provide our customers, the timeliness of our product reaching the market, and our ability to trace each packed box all the way back to the field in which it was picked.

Bar Code Scanner 2 CopyThe packaging process begins as the fruit arrives from the field and each bin box is scanned into our inventory system. Immediately we record the block from which the fruit was harvested, the harvest crew responsible for harvesting the fruit, any quality issues that should be noted, and it is assigned a place in our bulk inventory coolers. At that point the bins enter the hydrocooler – one of the most important steps in the packing process. Bins are placed into tunnels where water at 34 degrees Fahrenheit pours down over the fruit. The purpose here is to cool the fruit down from its picking temperature of nearly 85°F to about 35°F stopping the ripening process and allowing for a longer shelf life. Once peaches exit the hydrocooler they are stored in a cooler that is carefully monitored via a web-based program until they are packed. Support personnel are notified via a cell phone call if temperatures in these storages coolers fall below a certain point.

Each evening our staff analyzes the product in inventory and creates a packing schedule for the following day. Varieties having the same color and size characteristics are grouped together for packing. The run order and the grouping of the fruit prior to packing are important marketing aspects. Our customers expect to see uniform size and quality throughout the season. At this point a lot number is created for each group of fruit. This lot number will follow the fruit through the packing process, will be printed on the side of the box and will follow the fruit on to your neighborhood grocer.

The peach packing process begins with two Sorma bin dumpers – the most gentle fruit handlers in the industry – carefully feeding product onto the packing line. At this point the fruit is no longer inventoried as a bulk product but is packed by lots and becomes a part of the packed inventory. As each peach is washed, brushes remove the fuzz, and a food grade wax is applied to protect the fruit from the invasion of bacteria and to enhance shelf life. The fruit then travels under the watchful eyes of some of the most skilled and dedicated fruit graders in the industry. Here it is graded by hand for defects, blemishes, and any soft places. Soft peaches and peaches with defects (seconds) are re-graded and sold locally at a discount.

2254The #1 product first makes its way beneath the Color Vision non-destructive Brix detector that monitors Brix levels or sweetness of the fruit and then makes its way onto the peach sizer. Peaches are marketed by diameter size with larger sizes having higher demand in the marketplace. PLU (price look-up code) stickers are placed on the fruit during the packing process. These stickers contain an industry standard number that is used by grocery store chains to determine correct pricing at the register. Some grocery stores have updated their register process to include a databar scanner. This is a condensed barcode that provides brand and product information and also allows for accurate pricing at the register.

From here, the peach travels along the 12-lane computerized sizer with 18 programmable drops and 12 hand-packing stations to the filler where it is placed into a shipping container. The majority of Titan peaches are shipped in 25 lb. volume filled boxes - the standard pack of our industry. This black box continues to be our most sought after package and is the backbone of our company.

However, we have recognized that consumer preferences and economic times are ever-changing and have dedicated the past four years to developing an innovative product line to meet the needs of all of our customers. From the price conscious value shopper to the shopper who demands the best and is willing to pay for it – we have a product to fit your needs. First and foremost we recognize that our business is built on taste, quality, consistency, and repeat purchase. Marketing peaches is challenging to the fact that peaches are not sold from inventory but rather in advance of harvest. We work closely with our sales agents on crop projections, to manage our sales inventory and the needs of our customers. However as the weather changes, making these estimates is an educated guess at best. This is why grouping of fruit on the run order is very important. Different buyers (shown above, to name a few) have different characteristics (color and size) they prefer. One may only buy large fruit and another may be on ad for a small fruit and may need it tomorrow. One company may require and be willing to pay for the best color that you have, while another is more concerned with condition and quality than color. Knowing your buyer is the key to successful marketing of the crop. Working with our sales agents to pack the product in specific order is just as important to guarantee we deliver the right fruit to the right people on time.

At Titan Farms, we typically harvest, pack, and ship our peaches within 24 to 48 hours of the time they are picked off the tree. The Southeastern industry prides itself on having the freshest, ripest, best-tasting, peaches in the country due to the fact that they are in the stores ready for consumers within two or three days of being picked.Boxes

If that wasn’t enough to look after during the season, the peaches must be continually sprayed for diseases and insects. Also peaches must be irrigated to ensure proper sizing and ripening. Peaches require almost 16 inches of water during the three weeks prior to harvest through harvest (about a five-week period). It takes a great deal of manpower and machinery to accomplish these tasks. Major concerns during harvesting, packaging, and shipping season are numerous but fortunately do not occur often. Some are as follows: hail storms, floods, hurricanes, power outages, labor shortages, truck driver shortages/strikes, and supplier problems.

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Titan Farms
5 R. W. DuBose Road  |  Ridge Spring, South Carolina 29129
Sara's Stand
5150 Edgefield Road   |  Trenton, South Carolina 29847