High demand greets local produce market

07/07/2010 11:02:28 AM
Jim Offner

Homegrown is the operative summer term for produce suppliers in Washington and Oregon.

“It’s really strong,” Mark Adams, owner of Seattle-based Northwest Specialty Produce, said of demand for locally grown produce.

“People in the state of Washington are really, really set on local produce.”

He said interest is keener in the Pacific Northwest than other areas. Adams said that he lived in California for 30 years and found that the growing region was not a specific selling point for produce there.

“I’ve been here 14 years, and it really stands out, how strong the market here for local produce is.”

Eager market

If it grows in the area, it will sell, Adams said.

“The stores really push it with signage and all kinds of point-of-purchase stuff,” he said. “That’s where it really goes.”

For some items, the homegrown season is a short but sweet proposition, said Dale Hayton, sales manager for Valley Pride Sales, Mount Vernon, Wash.

“For us, our broccoli is very, very well received here locally, and the potatoes, as well, and across the country, too. The berries create quite a bit of excitement. It’s a very short window,” he said.

The raspberry deal runs in July. Blueberries run mid-July and through September. Blackberries go from August to mid-October, he said.

Weather has slowed down the onset of the homegrown season this year, Hayton said, adding that a succession of heavy rainfalls blew through the area beginning around May 20 and through mid-June.

That could affect volume this year, Hayton said.

“There’s definitely going to be down yields on a few items,” he said.

“And we’re not going to know a whole lot until we see things come out of the ground a little more. It’s been challenging, that’s for sure.”

Tom Lively, senior account representative with Eugene, Ore.-based Organically Grown Co. said Oregon had one sunny day in May.

Things were little different as June came on, he added.

“We beat the June record for rain in three days,” he said. “It’s all a very mathematical process: We need heat units and lots of them.”

Volume in some crops will be down dramatically, Lively said.

“We had a grower that was supposed to have 30,000 cases of asparagus and ended up with about 3,000,” he said.

“It was a complete collapse. It was never warm enough for the stuff to come up, and when it finally did, it was windy, and the spears were all curved. A lot of our farmers have struggled. It makes the guys who put greenhouses in look real smart.”

Weather causes delays

By mid-June, Lively said he was looking at delays in many crops.


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