Supplies of California sweet corn are tighter this year as growers have cut back plantings, says Ryan Van Groningen, sales manager for Manteca-based Van Groningen & Sons Inc.
Supplies of California sweet corn are tighter this year as growers have cut back plantings, says Ryan Van Groningen, sales manager for Manteca-based Van Groningen & Sons Inc.

With summer weather finally arriving in many regions, several grower-shippers say they expect mostly high quality and promotable volumes of traditional Labor Day favorites sweet corn, watermelons and berries.

The sweet corn season started out about two weeks behind schedule this summer in Michigan, but the crop has since caught up, said Todd Van Solkema, chief executive officer of Byron Center, Mich.-based Van Solkema Produce Inc.

“We’re into our peak now, and all of it is U.S. Fancy,” he said. “The quality is excellent, and we’ve got real good volume.”

Goshen, Ind.-based Sunrise Produce Inc. also should have ample volumes of excellent quality sweet corn from its Indiana farms, said president Tom Kercher.

In addition, watermelons, which Sunrise Produce markets, should be plentiful.

“It’s cooled off, so the volume has slowed down a bit, which is actually helpful because nobody will have a glut,” Kercher said.

And eating quality should be stellar.

“We haven’t had any drought, we haven’t had any excessive heat,” he said “It’s just been almost ideal growing conditions.”

The North Carolina corn-growing season has been similar, said Brad Peterson, salesman for Flavor 1st Growers & Packers, Mills River.

“The sweet corn’s coming along pretty good,” he said. “The corn grows really well here in the mountains when it gets the right temperatures.”

Volumes won’t be quite as high as they were for Memorial Day or July Fourth, but Peterson said they should still be ample enough to run on ad.

Although central California was experiencing hotter-than-usual weather in early August, Ryan Van Groningen, sales manager for Van Groningen & Sons Inc., Manteca, said it shouldn’t affect watermelon quality since their fields are near the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The water body acts like a natural swamp cooler, lowering temperatures at night and allowing sugar accumulated in the fruit during the day to remain there.

Supplies should be adequate, although Labor Day isn’t as big a holiday as Fourth of July or Memorial Day because school has already started in many locations, Van Groningen said.

Sweet corn supplies from California, however, may be tighter, he said. Typically in late July, he’d expect $10.95 for a 48-ear carton. This year, he said it was running between $13.95-$14.95.

“Sweet corn has been a commodity that for the past few years has been pretty tough for growers to make any money,” Van Groningen said. “I think every year you were seeing growers cut back gradually and then with the water situation, they cut back even more.

"This year we’ve had a market where it’s been pretty good supplies but not over-abundant because everybody’s cut back.”

Darren Van Dyke, sales and marketing director for Brawley-based Five Crowns Marketing Inc., which also markets for partner GloriAnn Farms, Tracy, said he doesn’t see any supply hiccups in its tray-pack sweet corn for regular customers.

“We don’t see any issues as far as quality, and the size looks good,” he added.

Supplies of California strawberries and raspberries should be adequate for holiday promotions, said Louis Ivanovich, a partner in Watsonville, Calif.-West Lake Fresh.

In late July, a warm monsoonal weather pattern stalled over the state, causing strawberries to have thinner skins and reduced shelf life.

But Ivanovich said in late July he hoped the weather returns to a more seasonable pattern shortly with warmer, drier days and cooler nights.

“Give the plants a week to catch up, and holding powers are going to be much better,” he said.