VINELAND, N.J. — New Jersey shippers sent produce to supermarkets a couple of weeks ahead of normal.
Warmer-than-normal spring weather helped mature crops and allowed Garden State grower-shippers to begin leaf and lettuce shipments early.
Others say buyers should expect a normal New Jersey season compared to last year when hurricanes and torrential rains wrecked the latter parts of the deal.
Growers began lettuce and asparagus shipments in late March, far ahead of the typical mid-April starts.
The state has two production seasons. Early season items such as lettuce and leafy greens begin in March and April while the southern vegetables begin in June and July.
Vince Consalo, president of Wm. Consalo & Sons Farms Inc., characterized early spring items as possessing high quality.
“You drive around the fields and see how the crops are just gorgeous,” he said in mid-May.
“This is the earliest we have ever seen this. We wouldn’t be cutting this type of quality under normal circumstances until May 20. We have been cutting this quality since late April.”
Consalo said retailers should expect strong volume for promotions.
He said the growing region in April experienced the kind of weather it normally enjoys in May and said his operation has been shipping large volumes of the up to 20 lettuces and leafy green items it carries.
Ryan Flaim of R&R Flaim Next Generation Produce LLC said he began harvesting lettuces in late April and early May, about a week earlier than usual.
“The quality is very good,” he said in mid-May.
“Everything is growing very nicely. Our weather conditions have been ideal.”
Bill Nardelli, president of Nardelli Bros. Inc., Cedarville, said so many East Coast areas in production at the same time initially concerned growers about a possible oversupply, but those fears didn’t materialize.
Nardelli began harvesting overwintered items including parsley, cilantro and spinach in mid-March with leafy greens starting in early to mid-April and lettuce in early May.
“The leafy greens are outstanding,” he said in mid-May. “Quality and demand are strong. Things are moving along well.”
Cedarville-based Eastern Fresh Growers Inc. started its asparagus in mid-March, about a month ahead of its normal mid-April start, the earliest the grower-shipper ever started, said Tom Sheppard, president.
Peak production began in early May.
“Everything looks fine in the field,” Sheppard said in early May.
Tom Consalo, director of sales for Freshwave Fruit & Produce LLC, said the warmer spring allowed for earlier than normal shipments and said grower-shippers were busier than normal in early May.
“We were into our overwinter crops by mid-March and early April. We’re not into our new fields and they look great,” he said in mid-May.
Consalo said big volumes of lettuce began in mid-May.
The summer bell peppers, cucumbers and squash appear to be on time, said Joe Marino, director of sales and marketing for Sun Valley Orchards LLC, Swedesboro.
“The early warm weather kind of made people think we’d be early,” he said in mid-May.
“But the weather straightened out and we now have a normal spring where temperatures have cooled down. Everything looks great and this should be a normal season. There’s nothing that should affect things otherwise.”
Jersey state peaches are expected to begin production July 1, about a week earlier than normal.
“We are on track for a July 1 start,” Bob Von Rohr, marketing and customer relations manager for Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, said in mid-May.
“The crop looks outstanding. There are no problems. We should have a better than normal crop this year out of New Jersey.”
On blueberries, Sunny Valley plans to begin June 1, seven to 10 days earlier than normal, Von Rohr said.
This season’s blueberry crop also should begin a week earlier than normal.
“This crop is beautiful. It’s big. It’s early. They are sizing up nice,” Chris Bowe, president of ABI Imports Inc., Hammonton, said in mid-May.
“We are expecting exceptional quality. We will be aggressively marketing them so we can move the crop.”