Someone once told Chalmers Carr that you can’t be both the biggest and the best, that large volumes inherently mean poor quality.
Chalmers couldn’t buy into that — it didn’t jibe with his personality, or his vision for his peach farm.
“To build a brand, you have to build it on quality, service, consistency, and everything that goes along with that,” Chalmers said.
Today, Chalmers and his wife own Titan Farms, the largest peach grower on the East Coast, with 600,000 trees on nearly 5,500 acres in South Carolina. If you ask him point blank, he’ll tell you that through all the stages of growth, he hasn’t sacrificed quality one bit. In fact, thanks to technology, it’s gotten better.
His belief is that the first one implementing new technology gets it paid for the quickest, so Titans Farms has adapted to the changing world. It has offered its space for R&D for companies and as research space for Clemson University, a South Carolina land-grant institution.
“The fact that we’re a first-generation farm actually gives us a lot of advantages,” said Chalmers, who, along with his wife and father, is a Clemson grad. “I don’t mean this in a negative way, because there are times when I wish I had had somebody to ask questions of, but making mistakes has been important to our growth. The other side of that is that we didn’t have somebody telling us, ‘Well, this is the way we do it, and we’ve always done it this way.’ We’ve always been able to embrace new technology.”
That includes such things as irrigation technology that shows when and how much water is needed, data management software, variable-speed motors, going from diesel to electric, GPS devices that help him plot an orchard that’ll be around for the next 15 years, and a state-of-the-art stone-fruit packing line, which cuts labor and increases output using camera systems that do grading and sorting and other systems that use bar codes to help direct cartons to certain places.
A soil-moisture monitor and a graph even helped teach him that much of what he knew about water use was wrong.
“We’re able to do more with a lot less because of technology,” he said. Typically, specialty fruit operations require more manual labor than many other areas of the farming industry.
Chalmers’ approach has been so successful that he was selected by Bayer Crop Science as the company’s inaugural Produce Innovation Award winner in 2015.
Titan Farms continues to innovate to stay current with trends and get the most value out of its products.
“We’re as completely vertically integrated as we can be,” Chalmers said. Though if the opportunity arises, you can expect him to continue to push production innovation.