Cottle Farms expands into Florida blueberries
February 28, 2013

Cottle Strawberry Nursery Inc. is boosting its Florida blueberries business by selling for a central Florida grower that built a new packing shed.

The Faison, N.C.-based grower-shipper of strawberries and blueberries is set to begin marketing for Florida Best Farm Inc., which plans to begin packing from its new 20,000 square foot packing shed in mid-February.

Owned by central Florida citrus and blueberries grower Jason Watts and his father Jim Watts, Florida Best plans to pack and market its fruit under the Cottle Farms label, a Cottle division.

“We now have some of our own fruit and have a lot more control over it,” Cottle said. “We have always brokered berries out of Florida. The broker is always on the back end of the pole. This will help keep chain stores supplied more steadily as they’re demanding direct.”

The operation plans to pack from Watts’ 70 acres as well as from some other growers, expanding to 100 acres next season.

The building is designed to pack berries from 500 acres, Cottle said.

“Some of us have property already that’s just waiting to plant blueberries,” said Watts, a fourth-generation citrus grower.

Florida Best Farm plans to pack up to 1 million pounds of Cottle Farms-brand berries from Florida.

Cottle grows and packs blueberries from North Carolina, British Columbia and Chile and sources from other areas including Georgia, New Jersey and Michigan.

Grower Matthew Green, a caretaker and consultant, is also involved.

The Packer