Surry plant move possible

Published 2:32 pm Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Meanwhile, another fire destroys more hams

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

SURRY — While waiting on a decision by the town of Surry on whether it will go with the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, ham maker Sam Edwards feels dogged by a “hex” as events continue to unfold after his facilities burned down last year.

He is also weighing offers from neighboring localities to rebuild there, given that his business, Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, needs the town of Surry to sign on with HRSD, which the town has thus far declined to do.

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Isle of Wight County is one of the localities where officials have indicated that if Surry doesn’t want the family-owned business, they do, Edwards said. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Edwards’ business was grandfathered with regards to wastewater requirements prior to the fire and now needs HRSD in order to rebuild.

The Surry County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on Feb. 2 to deed its wastewater treatment system to HRSD. However, HRSD officials have said that in order for Edwards to rebuild, it needs the extra flow from the town of Surry to make it work.

Since the fire, Edwards had made arrangements with Harper’s Country Hams in Clinton, Ky. to cure and age his renowned Surryano hams.

But in an odd twist of fate, the Harper’s plant burned down Feb. 8 and Edwards lost 6,000 hams — a loss estimated at $900,000.

Bringing a Surryano ham to market takes at least 18 months and the loss puts Edwards back to square one for that popular product. 

Edwards has also farmed out his product to companies in Missouri, Tennessee and North Carolina.

Surryano hams use Berkshire pigs raised on peanuts to create perfectly marbled meat. The leg is hand-cured, hickory-smoked and aged from 18 months to four years. The process required USDA approval and Edwards has had to share those recipe secrets with processors helping with his business, such as the Harper family in Kentucky.

Edwards is also involved in a lawsuit against his insurance carrier, Selective Way, and after a hearing last October, had expected to receive a judgment by now from the courts on whether the case would proceed to trial.

However, the death last month of a Sixth Judicial Circuit Court judge has likely set that decision back too, he said.

“I need to go to New Orleans where they remove hexes,” joked Edwards.

Despite the setbacks, Edwards said the company has managed to keep about 20 employees on the payroll and make about 45 percent of its normal sales volume for 2016.

Edwards Virginia Smokehouse, in business for more than 90 years, is one of Surry’s largest employers.

Yet, the plodding pace is taking its toll.

“I thought things would move a lot faster. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting on someone else for your livelihood to continue,” said Edwards.

At the same time, Edwards said the HRSD decision is bigger than his business. The town and county need the system to help businesses grow because the current systems are maxed out, he said.  {/mprestriction}