(Dec. 5) L&M Cos. Inc. has modified its winter vegetable and fruit programs this season — both in Florida and offshore — with the goal of providing foodservice and retail customers with better quality, larger volumes and more efficient shipping procedures.

Changes include a new business venture, new products and shipping consolidation. It enables the Raleigh, N.C.-based company to boast an expanded winter fruit and vegetable selection, said Lee Anne Oxford, L&M’s marketing director.

L&M MEXICO

The firm has a new subsidiary, L&M Mexico, partnering with Alejandro Canelos Sr. to grow red, yellow and green bell peppers, as well as round and roma tomatoes, in new greenhouses in Culiacan, Mexico, Oxford said.

L&M predicts hothouse hybrids will soon replace many open field items, said T.J. Bauer, director of sales for the L&M’s Nogales, Ariz., office, where all Mexican products are shipped.

“(Greenhouse) tomatoes are stronger, better tasting (and) able to directly ship to retail, and bell peppers have a longer shelf life, thicker walls, better flavor, more predictable production and better appearance,” Bauer said.

L&M’s greenhouse vegetables are shipped under the Nature’s Delight label. All tomatoes are expected to begin production in mid-December and run through May, while peppers are a little tardy, with an anticipated late December start, also continuing through May, Oxford said.

Quality is looking good for the greenhouse bells and tomatoes, but volume numbers were unclear at the time, Oxford said Dec. 4.

DOMESTIC OPERATIONS

L&M also is harvesting winter vegetables from Pompano Beach, Fla., and Immokalee, Fla., this season, Oxford said, instead of solely from Immokalee.

As a result, Florida winter vegetable production is expected to jump 30% to 40%, mainly comprised of peppers, but also a little squash and eggplant, she said.

L&M’s Pompano Beach office will serve as a consolidation point for both Florida winter vegetables — such as peppers, squash, eggplant, cucumbers and cabbage — and imported melons for the first time this year, Oxford said.

Previously, only melons were available at Pompano Beach, she said.

Immokalee will continue as a shipping point for Florida vegetables, she said.

Florida winter production began lightly the first week of December, and peppers, squash, eggplant and cucumbers were scheduled to continue through May, while cabbage should wrap up by April, barring no heat problems, Oxford said.