After a slow start, production of leafy greens in New Jersey began picking up in May.
Jamie Graiff, a partner and sales manager of Newfield, N.J.-based Daniel Graiff Farms LLC, said the cool, wet spring weather delayed his company’s baby arugula and baby spinach deals by about three weeks.
By the week of May 13, Graiff had finally begun harvesting.
In mid-May, he said the forecast was looking up for vegetable growers.
“Hopefully things will (pick up) a little bit,” he said. “I think we’re coming into it a lot heavier now, but it took a while.”
Beginning in mid-May, Graiff Farms expected to harvest at least three days a week, Graiff said.
Graiff Farms has increased production of its baby arugula and baby spinach for 2013, Graiff said.
The company expects to ship arugula through November and spinach through about mid-June, depending on the weather, he said.
“If it’s cool, maybe into July,” Graiff said. “It can’t take the heat.”
Graiff Farms’ spinach production should resume in September.
Cedarville-based Eastern Fresh Growers Inc. began shipping Jersey-grown romaine in the first half of May, but volume shipments weren’t expected until later in the month, president Tom Sheppard said.
That should not affect demand too much, however, since the company’s North Carolina romaine deal also was running at least a week behind schedule in early May, Sheppard said.
The same cool weather that was slowing growth actually helped quality.
“Cooler weather is better for lettuce,” Sheppard said. “It grows too fast if it’s hot. The quality’s going to be really good.”
Jersey-grown boston lettuce was set to start shipping before romaine for Eastern Fresh this season, Sheppard said.
The company also is shipping green leaf, endive and other lettuce varieties from the Garden State this year.
Boston and green leaf production is up for Eastern Fresh this year and romaine is constant.
Production of iceberg, with the exception of small volumes grown for cello-wrapping, is slight.
“We used to grow a lot of iceberg. Now there’s hardly any,” Sheppard said.
Jersey shippers have enjoyed strong demand on leafy greens early in the deal, as deals in Florida, Georgia and Texas have wound down, Nardelli said.
“The chains have swung in here well,” he said.
Nardelli Bros. is aided by having shipper-partners along the East Coast to the south to pave the way for Jersey deals, Nardelli said.
“We pack it here, so we’re able to offset, if (New Jersey production) is a little late,” he said. “It’s how we’re able to switch in to take care of retailers.”
Leafy green volumes were down at the start of the deal but picked up by early May, Nardelli said.
Nardelli Bros. leafy greens category as a whole was largely unchanged from 2012, though the company did report increases in production of some ethnic items, including cilantro and methy leaf.
Cilantro, in particular, Nardelli said, has gotten to the point where it’s less an ethnic item and more an everyday item.
After the slow start, Formisano Farms, Buena, N.J., was in full production on romaine, red and green leaf, swiss chard, kohlrabi, basil, dill and cilantro in mid-May, president John Formisano said.
“Everything’s going well now,” he said.