STANFORD, Ky. — Gov. Matt Bevin and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles recently congratulated Kentucky Fresh Harvest LLC as company and Stanford-area officials broke ground on a $10.7 million, 75-job facility to produce cherry tomatoes.
“Agriculture in an essential industry in the Commonwealth. The arrival of this high-tech greenhouse operation is an innovative way to produce high-quality products at less cost,” Gov. Bevin said. “We are grateful that the establishment of Kentucky Fresh Harvest will bring 75 full-time jobs to Lincoln County and will showcase the evolution of an industry deeply rooted in Kentucky’s economy.”
With the start of site preparation in Stanford, Kentucky Fresh Harvest’s first phase of construction gets underway. The initial phase will include a plant nursery to begin growing seedlings as builders move on to construct a larger grow house.
The company will begin hiring in early 2017 and expects to ship its first cherry tomatoes in May or June. Company owners expect the facility – anticipated to be fully operational within a year – to produce between 3 and 4 million pounds of cherry tomatoes annually. Of the 75 jobs, approximately 15 will require advanced degrees or training, including managerial roles, while the remaining positions will be among greenhouse and packing house teams.
Founded in Lincoln County, Kentucky Fresh Harvest is majority owned by Kentucky Hi Tech Greenhouses LLC (KYHTG). A group of Lincoln County investors collaborated on the project to help bring jobs and sustainable agriculture to Stanford while supplying the U.S. market with affordable, fresh produce.
“We are excited and honored to be building our showcase first Kentucky project in Lincoln County, a county with a rich heritage rooted in traditional agriculture,” said Curt Meltzer, COO of Kentucky Fresh Harvest. “With the expertise and experience of our international partners at Oz Agribusiness Projects & Investments Limited (OAPI) by our side, Kentucky Fresh Harvest will become the example of 21st century Israeli agricultural methods and technology at work in the Bluegrass State. As we now go forward with construction, we all look forward to creating this sustainable project, which will be good for everyone – the state, the community, our employees, our investors and the company. The future of farming is here, and here to stay.”
OAPI founder Haim Oz is partner and CEO of KYHTG and serves as Kentucky Fresh Harvest’s CEO. OAPI will be Kentucky Fresh Harvest’s exclusive operator and manager. Over the past 20 years, Oz Agribusiness Projects & Investments has developed high-tech greenhouses and other ag-related projects across five continents.
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles praised the project and the impact it will bring.
“Agriculture is economic development, and this project will give a major economic boost to the people of Lincoln County and surrounding counties,” Commissioner Quarles said. “Kentucky Fresh Harvest and its partners are using innovation to create value, economic activity, and jobs. This facility ultimately will provide fresh, Kentucky-grown tomatoes to consumers throughout much of the United States.”
Sen. Chris Girdler of Somerset applauded the company’s decision to locate in Lincoln County.
“I am pleased to welcome Kentucky Fresh Harvest to Stanford,” he said. “Companies such as this are great examples of Kentucky’s business potential for many industries, especially an agriculture industry supplying Kentucky Proud products. I know Lincoln County will serve this company well, and I am excited to have Kentucky Fresh Harvest join our regional economy.”
Rep. David Meade of Stanford noted the importance of agribusiness in Lincoln County.
“Agriculture is a major component in our region,” Rep. Meade said. “I appreciate the decision by Kentucky Fresh Harvest to invest $10.7 million to create 75 additional jobs. This decision is extremely important to our communities, and I commend them for their continued growth. Kentucky must continue to remove the red tape in order to attract business growth like this, and work to enable companies like Kentucky Fresh Harvest to lead the way with high-tech ag jobs.”
Stanford Mayor Eddie Carter said the new facility will bring economic activity and serve as an example of forward-thinking agriculture in the area.
“I want to welcome Kentucky Fresh Harvest LLC to our community. It has been a pleasure working with the owners through the Industrial Development Board to bring approximately 75 jobs to our city,” Mayor Carter said. “It’s an honor to have this investment in Stanford. We stand ready to showcase the future of agribusiness in our community”
Lincoln County Judge-Executive Jim Adams Jr., welcomed the project.
“Rarely does an opportunity like Kentucky Fresh Harvest come along. This project matches Lincoln County’s agricultural persona and should provide livable wages for many of our citizens. My thanks to all involved for their efforts,” Judge Adams said.
To encourage the investment and job growth in the community, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority (KEDFA) in March preliminarily approved the company for tax incentives up to $1.5 million over 15 years through the Kentucky Business Investment program. The performance-based incentive allows a company to keep a portion of its investment over the agreement term through corporate income tax credits and wage assessments by meeting job and investment targets.
Additionally, KEDFA approved Kentucky Fresh Harvest for up to $190,000 in tax incentives through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act (KEIA). KEIA allows approved companies to recoup Kentucky sales and use tax on construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.
Kentucky Fresh Harvest can also receive resources from the Kentucky Skills Network. Through the Kentucky Skills Network, companies can receive no-cost recruitment and job placement services, reduced-cost customized training and job training incentives. Last year, the Kentucky Skills Network trained more than 84,000 employees from more than 5,600 Kentucky companies.