BBQGuys® Volunteers at Capital City Produce's Community Garden
Community Spotlight: Capitol City Produce
Founded in 1947 by Vincent and Jennie Ferachi, Capitol City Produce started from humble beginnings as a fruit truck serving the South Choctaw area of Baton Rouge. Four generations of hard-earned sweat later, their Baton Rouge-based distribution center feeds schools, restaurants, hospitals, oil rigs, and anywhere else needing fresh produce throughout the Gulf Coast region. No matter the growth of their operations, the family remembers where its roots are — they promote local brands, set up programs to connect local farmers to sell wholesale, and source from nearby farms as practically as possible. We caught up with fourth-generation Cameron Ferachi, who stepped off the Vince Ferachi Community Garden farm to briefly chat with us about the namesake’s legacy, the value of supporting local businesses, and the family’s longstanding charitable efforts.
“One thing a food bank always lacks is fresh fruits and vegetables,” Cameron tells us matter-of-factly. He should know; their family’s company has donated thousands of pounds grown in their own backyard. But they’re not simply plucking and dropping off produce, as he explains: “Filling that kind of need is exactly why we planted the Vince Ferachi Community Garden next door.” The garden was named for his late grandfather, Vince “Pops” Ferachi — Capitol City Produce’s highly-respected and locally charitable second-generation owner. “For the past year alone, we’ve moved 200–300 pounds of vegetables every week. Now, everything that sprouts in the community garden is given away, mind you: washed, bagged, and delivered right to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank.” That’s a lot of work, we point out. “Oh, sure. But it’s work we take seriously. We want to make a real contribution.”
As does BBQGuys — volunteering in Capitol City Produce's Vince Ferachi Community Garden is one of our favorite ways to give back to our community. But we aren’t the only ones rolling up our sleeves; through blossoming partnerships, Capitol City Produce takes eager local volunteers for a few hours of weeding, harvesting, watering, and basic farm maintenance. When we asked who first planted this seed of charity, Cameron answers without a shadow of a doubt. “My grandfather. He believed in giving back, and he worked hard to keep that strong. Both in his work, and the values passed down to us.” As an example, he proudly tells us his 77-year-old grandmother Suzy still works practically nonstop after over 45 years of building the business alongside her husband.
That inspired us to ask him a little more about how his family’s legacy became what it is today. “When my great-grandfather started the company in the late ‘40s, he figured out how to take us from that first truck to 2 or 3 more, then to a fleet of 8 trucks, then to 16. My grandfather really sped up our expansion and community efforts. Then came Dad, who worked there nonstop with his parents. Truth be told, it probably couldn’t have gotten where it is now without him.” There’s no mistaking the pride in his voice; his father Paul currently owns the company and remains highly active as CEO. “Dad brought it to this stage and basically put the whole operation on steroids. Meanwhile, I went to school and came back wanting to get my hands dirty with our operations and our community outreach. The better we do, the more we can give.”
His next big moves? “Well, our new acquisition in Robertsdale, Alabama expanded our reach to the Alabama and Florida markets,” Cameron tells us. “I’ve got bigger ideas for the community garden, too. Right now, it sits at about 3-and-a-half, maybe 4 acres. But it’d be great to double that. Eight acres…” His voice goes quiet on the line for a moment, but then comes a hopeful sigh. “Just think of all the good we could do with that.”
St. Vincent de Paul’s dining-room staff members are still preparing a hot lunch every day like normal, but now they’re also saddled with cooking daily dinners to make up for the meals typically given out by volunteers. Seeing an opportunity to alleviate those extra duties, BBQGuys quickly worked to arrange a food drop for the nonprofit organization.
Anyone else happy to contribute can sign up to volunteer through the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank for shifts from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays weekly.