VSU Small Farm Outreach Program Helps Sabra Grow First Crop of Chickpeas in Virginia

Wednesday, 30 July 2014 09:05 by Info@YesVirginia.org
It’s harvest time and good news for Sabra Dipping Co. Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture is about to gather one of Virginia’s first ever crop of chickpeas...

It’s harvest time and good news for Sabra Dipping Co. Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture is about to gather one of Virginia’s first crop of chickpeas.

Sabra has partnered with VSU to research the possibility of sourcing chickpeas, the main ingredient in its top-selling hummus, closer to the company’s 49-acre campus in Chesterfield County. Sabra is the No. 1 brand of hummus in the U.S. and has established both a manufacturing operation and R&D Center of Excellence on its campus at Ruffin Mill Industrial Park in Chesterfield County.

Sabra first announced plans to establish a facility in Virginia in November 2008. Part of the company’s decision to locate in Chesterfield County was the proximity to VSU’s College of Agriculture. “During the company’s decision-making process, we arranged several meetings with the College of Agriculture to explore opportunities to grow chickpeas in Virginia and enhance the profitability of the company,” said Renee Chapline, president and CEO at Virginia Gateway Region.

Over the last two years, Sabra and VSU have implemented Dr. Harbans Bhardwaj’s chickpea research through the university’s Small Farms Outreach Program. Cliff Somerville, a VSU Small Farm Outreach agent, has worked with a number of farms across Virginia to test the growth of different varieties of chickpeas.

According to Somerville, while last year’s crops were largely a washout due to weather conditions (excessive rain) and a problem with worms, VSU and Sabra discovered that one type of chickpea seed worked well in Virginia — the “Billy Bean” variety.

This year, VSU only planted the “Billy Bean” variety and Somerville supervised one of those test sites – three acres on a farm in Halifax County.

“The plants got up to around 30 inches and it’s a good population with about 32-34 pods per stalk,” said Somerville. “It’s a successful crop. We’ve done a test run with the combine to check moisture levels, and we’re getting ready to do a full harvest in the next week or so. This will be one of the first crops of chickpeas grown in Virginia.”

The success of Virginia’s first group of chickpea crops has the potential to be a win-win for both Sabra and Virginia farmers. It would allow Sabra to shorten its supply chain and reduce risk by sourcing one of its main ingredients closer to the company’s manufacturing facility. It also would provide diversification for Virginia farmers, particularly those in the tobacco region.

To learn about Virginia’s plentiful resources, and how the Commonwealth’s higher education institutions partner with businesses to innovate, click here.

VSU Small  Farm Outreach agents Cliff Somerville and Derrick Cladd, program director William Crutchfield and cooperating farmer Mr. James Brown (left to right) examine plants in Halifax County, part of Virginia’s first successful group of chickpea crops. Photo courtesy of Virginia State University.

Sabra Dipping Co. Expands its Footprint in Chesterfield County, Va.

Monday, 25 June 2012 14:12 by Info@YesVirginia.org

Sabra Dipping Co. announced two exciting projects on its 49-acre campus at Ruffin Mill Industrial Park in Chesterfield County. America’s leading hummus producer will expand its existing food manufacturing operation and establish a Center of Excellence (COE) research and development facility. The combined investment will bring $28 million and 90 new jobs to Chesterfield County.

The manufacturing expansion will give Sabra 50 percent more production capacity with improvements such as adding two lines and a packaging automation system. Sabra first chose Chesterfield County as the site for its new manufacturing facility in 2008.

The new COE facility will feature a state-of-the-art culinary center and research center where Sabra plans to partner with universities on food science research. Construction on the new 20,000-square-foot facility is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2012.

Sabra Dipping Co. was formed through a joint venture between PepsiCo and Israel’s second-largest food and beverage company, the Strauss Group. Sabra’s award-winning flavors have made it the leading producer of hummus in the U.S.

This project is another positive result of a Governor’s marketing mission. Governor McDonnell met with Strauss Group officials in Israel during his November 2011 mission.

The company chose Virginia again for both its skilled workforce and cost-competitive advantages. Sabra CEO Ronen Zohar said, “The fact that we are building the Sabra Center of Excellence in Virginia is a testament to our belief in the people, the community and the resources available here.”

Virginia’s low and stable tax rate combined with competitive electricity and construction costs helped make the Commonwealth the clear winner. In addition, Virginia’s workforce is well-prepared through industry-specific training programs provided by the Commonwealth’s top-ranked universities and 23-member community college system.

To learn why more than 555 food and beverage manufacturing companies have invested more than $1.9 billion in Virginia over the last decade, click here.


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