“Stuff I’d be looking for in July won’t come until August, the way this has gone,” he said.
Sam Caruso, partner in Tualatin, Ore.-based Caruso Produce Inc., painted a perhaps even more dire picture.
“Our local buyers talked to farmers who say they haven’t seen it this bad in 50 years,” he said.
“There’s virtually no rhubarb. We’re typically shipping it to Washington to be mixed with the apples on trucks. One of our growers, we order a pallet and he sends two. He’s always trying to get rid of it.”
Of course, produce suppliers also have to contend with competition from home gardens, said Matt Roberts, sales director of CF Fresh, Sedro-Woolley, Wash.
“That’s the other issue,” he said.
“You’ve got lots of people with lots of local products at the same time. On some items it makes sense, on others it doesn’t. Lettuce or row crops, everybody’s got it in their gardens. It kind of depends on the product.”
That competition aside, there should be plenty of sales opportunities during the 2010 homegrown season, said Maureen Royal, who handles sales for Portland, Ore.-based Bridges Produce.
“It’s huge, very big, and there’s a number of different ways that they market it,” she said.
“There are a lot of growers that will work through us and we market a portion of this crop. There’s a lot of home delivery services in the area, with some high-end produce deliveries. They provide organic beef and dairy products, along with produce.”
David Rinella, owner of Portland-based Rinella Produce, said the homegrown season is always an exciting time for vendors.
“People love buying local over here,” he said.
“We have great local farmers in this area. They’re great to work with. They know what the f.o.b. price from California is, and that’s what they’re going to get. And more power to them. Generations have beaten farmers so bad, they’ve educated themselves.”