These first-generation operators now own the second-largest peach producer in the U.S. and grow peppers and broccoli, as well, with a team of more than 600 workers.
Chalmers R. Carr III didn’t plan to be a farmer. As the son of an Air Force General Officer, he thought his path would lead him to fly jets. But summers spent on his mother’s family farm led him instead to fields and orchards.
He and his wife and business partner, Lori Anne, started their farming career in Madison, Fla., with a peach operation. They knew their growth would be limited in that area, so when South Carolina’s largest peach operation offered Chalmers a management position, they moved North. After managing that operation for four years, they entered into a lease-to-own agreement.
"We didn't have parents or grandparents telling us, 'This is the way it's always been done,'” Chalmers says. “But when you put innovative people around you and you embrace technology, you forge your own way.”
They formed their operation, Titan Farms in Ridge Spring, S.C., in 1999. Today, they produce 5,300 acres of peaches and 870 acres of peppers and broccoli. Chalmers and Lori Anne are owners and serves as president and vice president, respectively. They are a premier grower, packer and processor of peaches and vegetables in the eastern U.S., and they serve as the largest supplier to retailers such as Walmart, Harris Teeter and Wegmans.
An operation of their scope requires a specialized and dedicated team. The Titan Farms staff includes 40 full-time employees and 630 H2A workers. Chalmers commonly says, “Titan Farms is only as good as its employees.” They strive to attract and retain good talent. They do so by offering 100% paid medical-leave insurance, a matching 401K retirement program and a recently launched incentive program. As a result, they have a 92% retention rate with their H2A workers.
They recently remodeled their organizational structure, which divided their growing operation into four divisions. They appointed vice presidents, directors and managers for each.
Today’s professional business didn’t happen overnight. Five years ago, Chalmers and Lori Ann hired a consultant to help their team analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats surrounding the company’s leadership and business strategy. As a result, the Titan team developed an in-house sales force for their products, increased production to meet growing consumer demand and converted produce waste into a revenue-producing product.
Last year, they build a multi-million-dollar frozen fruit facility to transform the roughly 25% of peaches that are harvested but deemed waste because of odd shapes or other features. Those once-rejected fruits are now sliced and diced to be frozen and sold in bulk or pureed for use in yogurt, baby food and other products.
As Chalmers and Lori Ann note, how and what people eat is changing completely. It’s their job to understand those trends and adapt their operation.
"I could see us growing bigger, plus the demand of peaches is on the increase,” Chalmers says. “I'm excited about it.”
Watch Titan Farms' story on AgDay above.