Hurricane Isaac spares produce

09/06/2012 09:19:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Shippers of Louisiana sweet potatoes and other fruits and vegetables in the path of Hurricane Isaac escaped with minimal negative effects, and some were grateful for much-needed rain.

In the U.S., Isaac struck Florida first, but fruit and vegetable crops in the Sunshine State suffered little damage, said Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland.

Sweet potato farms in southwest and central Louisiana received about an inch of rain from Isaac, and farms in northeast Louisiana between 4 and 4 1/2 inches, said Matt Garber, a partner in Garber Farms, Iota, La.

Even fields in the northeast part of the state won’t likely be seriously affected, Garber said, though Isaac-related rains caused some harvest delays as growers waited for fields to dry out.

Fields farmed by Dawson Farms, Delhi, La., received three or four inches of rain from Isaac, said saleswoman Eva Dawson. But other than delays, Dawson said there were no concerns about effects on quality and yields.

“All of our fields are precision-leveled,” she said. “They’re draining very nicely.”

Dawson also wasn’t worried about the break in harvest hurting Dawson Farms’ ability to market the 2012-13 crop.

Harvest at Dawson Farms began the week of Aug. 20.

Fields farmed by Earl Roy Sweet Potato Co. LLC, Hessmer, La., received just an inch of rain from Isaac, said Cindy Vead, office manager. Fields were hit by wind gusts, but nothing sustained enough to cause any damage, Vead said.

“We were on the good side of the storm,” she said. “We were very fortunate.”

Midwest and East also spared

After soaking Louisiana, Isaac headed north before making a right turn for the East Coast, bringing heavy rains and winds to some regions.

The one to three inches received in Ohio fields farmed by Willard, Ohio-based Buurma Farms Inc. the weekend of Sept. 1-2 were a huge relief, given what a dry summer the area has endured, said Loren Buurma, co-owner.

“We enjoyed having Isaac come through,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve seen puddles all summer.”

A cilantro field behind Buurma Farms’s packing shed looked like it doubled in size overnight following the rains, Buurma said.

The company will be shipping a full lineup of squash, cucumbers, peppers, pumpkins and other vegetables at least through September.

“It was very beneficial,” Buurma said Sept. 4. “We’ll be hitting on all cylinders for the next month.”

Some groves in Pennsylvania received 1 to 2 1/2 inches of rain from Isaac, said Brenda Briggs, vice president of marketing for apple and stone fruit shipper Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa.

More rain was forecast in early September, but the effects were expected to be minimal, Briggs said.

“It might interrupt harvest a tiny bit, not nothing really to report.”

Louisiana wholesaler weathers storm

As Isaac raged outside, one New Orleans area wholesaler kept its doors open and its fruits and vegetables moving.

Westwego, La.-based Matrana’s Produce kept going thanks to an investment in an industrial-grade power generation system, said Jeff Joseph of Visalia, Calif.-based Mineral King Produce LLC, a longtime supplier of Matrana’s.

“I was shocked to learn that his facility was up and running through the hurricane without missing a beat,” Joseph said.

Matrana was able to maintain product integrity through the storm and to resume deliveries just hours after it, Joseph said.

“(Vice president Camile Matrana) and his crew went back to the facility and refueled the generator while the storm was ongoing,” he said. “It’s a testament to the citizens of New Orleans and the vital role local businesses provide in bringing them together.”

Eastern Editor Doug Ohlemeier contributed to this article.



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