Most New Jersey vegetable crops are off to a slow start this year, particularly compared to 2012, when warm weather accelerated harvests.
“It’s been a cool spring, a little cooler than normal,” said Ben Casella, field representative for the New Jersey Farm Bureau, Trenton. “It seems that everything’s slower than last year.”
If the weather warms up and fields dry out, though, crops still have plenty of time to catch up, Casella said.
By early May, growers had begun planting tomatoes, peppers, squash and other crops — particularly those growing under plastic and hoops — Casella said.
“In south Jersey they do a lot of hoops,” he said. “It helps lengthen the market.”
Casella reported a marginal increase in the use of hoops this year, mostly among existing users who are increasing their acreage.
Most crops should begin shipping at the end of June or beginning of July this year, Casella said. Product under hoops should begin shipping a bit earlier.
Casella didn’t expect any major changes in overall production in 2013, he said.
“I haven’t heard of much one way or the other,” he said. “They have their markets and know what they need.”
Slightly more acreage than typical could be used to grow grains this year, Casella said. But little land would likely be lost to development.
“It was going pretty crazy for a while, but it’s slowed down here in New Jersey,” he said. “There really haven’t been any big shifts the past four or five years.”
Impact of weather
Bill NardelliSpring started on the wet and cool side, but it also featured periods of unseasonably warm temperatures followed by unseasonably cold ones, said Bill Nardelli, president of Cedarville, N.J.-based Nardelli Bros. Inc.
That set back some harvest schedules one or two weeks.
By mid-spring, though, Mother Nature had calmed down a bit, Nardelli said.
“Things are straightened out now,” Nardelli said the week of May 6. “Production has been very good.”
One thing Jersey growers don’t want, Nardelli said, is a quick switch from cold and wet to very hot. Some vegetables are more susceptible to tip burn if the weather swings from one extreme to the other.
Tomatoes, squash, peppers, others
Many New Jersey growers who cater to farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer channels are growing more varieties of tomatoes, Casella said.