Workers harvest pepper while Kaylee Hamilton looks on. Circa 1995.
In a small community in South Georgia, where farming is a way of life, your neighbor is your next of kin, and the gas station down the road serves as your local grocery store as well, Kent Hamilton lives and works as a 6th generation farmer. As is typical for the area, Kent comes from a long line of South Georgian farmers, but he took his farming operation in a different direction in 1987 when he joined with his father, brother, and a friend to start Southern Valley Fruit and Vegetable, Inc.
The overall heart and intent of Southern Valley is to combine sustainability with profitability. One of these elements without the other is sure to mean the death of the farm. This has always been Southern Valley founder and owner, Kent Hamilton’s, goal and aim. From the very beginning, he has worked to ensure that the soil that grows his produce is still here, healthy, and growing produce when his children and grandchildren are running the farm. Natural methods before synthetic ones. Soil-feeding practices before soil-destroying ones. Individualized over shotgun approach. These aren’t new methods for Southern Valley: this is who we have always been.
Each of these packing house supervisors has worked at Southern Valley anywhere from 10 to 25 years. From left to right: Michael, Hilda, Sam, and Brenda
Illegal labor harvests 2/3 of the vegetables grown in the US each year. Many of these workers are paid below minimum wage and live in squalid conditions. Southern Valley utilizes a workforce comprised of both domestic workers as well as migrant labor through the H2A Visa Program. We also guarantee our employees at least 145% of minimum wage during the contract season. Southern Valley provides housing to its H2A employees certified bi-annually by the US Department of Labor. We have numerous H2A workers who have chosen to return to our farm each season for over 15 years, and some of our domestic workers have been here since the beginning. We are proud to say that Southern Valley is a place workers choose to return to year after year. We work hard to be fair and equal to both customers and employees and are an equal opportunity employer.
It is the goal of Southern Valley to give our customers the highest quality, safest foods possible. Our food safety program exceeds the requirements of both the government and industry regulations. We are Global Food Safety Initiative compliant and have our annual Primus Global Food Safety audits in the packing sheds and fields at all three farm locations. We are also subject to unannounced second party audits throughout the year.