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Southern Classic Food Group owner gets $1.3M loan to develop vegetable processing plant in Brundidge

After a lot of paper shuffling and signing on Wednesday morning, David Bailey, South Alabama Electric Cooperative General Manager, handed Chuck Caraway a check for $1.36 million on behalf of Magnolia Food Processors.

Caraway, the founder and president, of Southern Classic Food Group and Magnolia Vegetable Processors in Brundidge, was gracious in his acceptance of the funds and in his acknowledgement of the entities that have paved the way for the growth of the food manufacturing company.

The funds were made available through the USDA Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program that provides funding for rural projects through utility organizations.

Andy Kimbro, commercial and industrial account representative at South Alabama Electric Cooperative, said USDA provides zero-interest loans to local utilities that, in turn, pass through to ultimate recipients for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas. The ultimate recipients repay the lending utility directly.

USDA provides grants to local utility organizations, which use the funding to establish revolving loan funds. Loans are made from the revolving loan funds to projects that will create or retain rural jobs. When the revolving loan fund is terminated, the grant is repaid to USDA.

The $1,360,000 made available to Caraway includes a USDA $1 million interest-free loan, $300,000 in grant funding and a $60,000 match from South Alabama Electric Cooperative.

Caraway said the loan and grant funds will be used in the development of Magnolia Vegetable Processors, a vegetable processing plant that will specialize in pickling, initially okra, peppers and cucumbers. Green beans, pearl onions, baby corn and relish will be added. Salsa, which Caraway said is the number one condiment in the country, is on the drawing board.

“MVP will be good for our farmers because the plan is to use local farmers, as often as we can, to grow the vegetables we need,” Caraway said. “We’ll begin with okra and jalapeno peppers – red and yellow – and cucumbers. We have two customers this year and the response has been good. We expect 22 customers next year.”

Marsha Gaylard, Pike County Economic Development Corporation president, said if there were a poster child for entrepreneurs, Chuck Caraway would be that “child.”

Caraway began his entrepreneurship in Brundidge with Southern Classic Food Group in 2001. Southern Classic now has about 200 employees and a product line of 700. Potential employment at Magnolia Vegetable Processors is 60.