California harvest gathers steam

05/23/2013 05:11:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Some early mature-green tomatoes already were being harvested in California’s Coachella Valley in early May, but most of the state’s crop won’t come off until late June.

The DiMare Co., based in Newman, Calif., started picking mature-greens in Indio on May 9, said Jeff Dolan, field operations manager.

After inspecting the crop May 7, he said the tomatoes in the Coachella Valley were looking good.

“I was very pleased with the progress of the crop,” he said, adding, that there have not been any major glitches this year.

Volume should be similar to previous years, he said.

When the Coachella Valley crop starts to wind down around June 1, DiMare will make “an orderly transition” northward into the San Joaquin Valley, where the company grows mature-green tomatoes.

“Everything has been pretty smooth, weather-wise,” Dolan said. “We haven’t had any major curve balls thrown at us so far.”

However, he cautioned it was only May and that “nasty hot spells” and rain could come later.

The company expects to ship round mature-green tomatoes, yellow tomatoes and romas out of the San Joaquin valley until the first week of November.

It was too early to accurately predict the quality of the San Joaquin Valley fruit in early May, but Dolan was optimistic.

“Everything is looking like it’s in good shape right now,” he said.

Red Rooster Sales, Firebaugh, Calif., expects to start its mature-green and roma programs around June 1, said John Seasholtz, chief executive officer and principal owner.

“We are among the earliest mature-greens in California,” he said.

Acreage will be the same as usual, he said, and quality as of mid-May was looking excellent.

“We’re quite encouraged,” he said.

Spencer Halsey, associate director for Sacramento-based California Tomato Farmers, also was optimistic about the coming season.

“No major problems have been reported,” he said, though he emphasized that it was early in the season.

At Deardorff Family Farms in Oxnard, Calif., president Tom Deardorff expected a July 1 start, assuming normal weather conditions prevail.

“We won’t be early, we won’t be late,” he said.

The only problem he mentioned was rainfall that was well below normal.

“We’ve already started to implement water restrictions here in the agricultural community,” he said.

Those restrictions will affect planting schedules for late summer and fall.

“(Lack of rain) was a factor in deciding how many acres to grow,” Deardorff said.

The biggest impact of the meager rainfall will be felt by the company’s fall vegetable crops.

“It won’t impact current plans in our tomato program,” he said.



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