In 1994, the founders of AFC saw a need in the watermelon industry for a professional company to help farmers get their products to market. Auburndale Fruit Company was created to partner with farmers who need assistance with harvesting, packing, shipping, and sales of watermelons. Jenny Helms and her now husband, Steve Helms together set about building a company based on their families' agricultural past, with their minds on the current and future generations of farmers.
Through the past 20+ years, AFC has grown fruit and helped many farmers from Florida to Georgia to Missouri and beyond learn the best growing practices for their particular region and the best varieties of watermelon, while building a solid retail customer base for these melons along the way. Steve innovated a new way to wash and sanitize melons and other produce using the patent-pending “Melon Float” which not only cleans the melons, but also the bins that these melons are placed in each time they are brought from the field to the packing facility. The Helms worked hard to build AFC into what it is today as they blended their two young families together in a small town in Central Florida.
As their children grew, they were always encouraged to be involved in the family business. From learning how to pick a ripe melon to stickering melons with Mr. Melon Man brand stickers, to driving a forklift in the packing shed, the Helms' children were taught about the labors of a farmer at a young age. Two of their daughters have been involved in growing and operating farming enterprises for the Helms. Vanessa ran an organic hydroponic greenhouse for AFC for 5 years growing and selling Adale Farms Organic Microgreens to retail. Rachel helped grow the AFC pomegranate tree operation. Their son-in-law, Miles Anderson, joined AFC in 2014 as sales and logistics of the watermelon operation. A family business from the beginning, the Helms hope to continue their farming tradition for generations to come.
Today, AFC both grows watermelons for their customers, and markets crops for grower partners. For many of their Growers, AFC provides financial assistance for purchasing seed, chemicals, bins, pallets, labor, and rental of packing facilities, as well as advice on best growing and harvesting practices for each grower. Jenny, with the help of her daughter Vanessa, keeps everything in motion behind the scenes including spear-heading the AFC Food Safety Department, handling Food Safety Certifications, and overseeing all accounts payable and receivable. Steve and Miles handle sales and are on site at each packing facility every day to supervise harvesting, packing, and shipping operations in order to ensure that only the best melons are sent to their customers and that it is all done in a way that either meets or exceeds current Food Safety practices.
AFC is a Certified Women's Business Enterprise. All packing facilities are Audited and receive certifications from Primus or other accredited companies. In most cases, AFC can assist with transportation and provide shipped quotes as well as AD quotes for retail.