Despite crop delays, Southern growers expect strong demand - The Packer

Despite crop delays, Southern growers expect strong demand

07/07/2014 02:18:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Local markets remain a main focus for growers in Kentucky and Tennessee, who expect the region’s season to be a nice one.

Brian Knott, president of Grow Farms, Louisville, Ky., sources product from growers in Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as surrounding regions, and he’s been pleased with what he’s seen so far.

“For the most part, things look normal and good,” he said.

Grow FarmsGrow Farms’ tomato fields in Tennessee’s Grainger County were blooming the first week of June, says president Brian Knott. Growers say a cool, wet spring delayed some crops in the Kentucky/Tennessee region by about two weeks.Eric Beale, president of J.E. Beale Produce, Inc., Lebanon, Tenn., said he expects the weather in central Tennessee to cause delays.

“I think things are about two weeks late. There’s been a lot of cool weather and rain, and a lot of guys didn’t get things planted as early in April as they usually would have,” Beale said.

Others say the slow start was a concern, but the season doesn’t seem to have been negatively affected.

“The wet spring had us scared, but really, it’s not as bad as it might have been and things have started pretty much on time,” said Billy Krause, operations and sales manager for Crossville, Tenn.-based Tennessee Vegetable Packers.

Jim Walker, president of Louisville, Ky.-based Creation Gardens, agreed.

“I think we were a solid two weeks behind, but the weather patterns over the last 30 days have been terrific, so we’re likely making up that ground, and the outlook is really good,” he said.

Tennessee Vegetable PackersBilly Krause, operations and sales manager for Tennessee Vegetable Packers, says the company was able to start its crops on time this season.A few growers who set plants out early might have seen some damage, but it wasn’t widespread.

“It was a challenge to get the initial crops out, and some guys who tried to set early may have seen fields stunted back or lost some beans,” said Jonathon Mixon, farm manager for John Mixon Farms, Rutledge, Tenn.

Knott had one grower lose his first setting of cucumbers.

However, some packers haven’t seen a delay at all.

“Everything has been pretty normal. Lettuce has been consistent. Really, as a whole, everything’s been pretty good,” said Lee Pittman, owner and president of Dixie Produce Inc., Chattanooga, Tenn.

Knott said the local market is growing more every year. He considers his entire business locally based, with all deliveries getting to customers by the next day, if not the same day.

It’s also getting more personal.

“Retailers want more photos of growers and they take those and use them to market the product,” Knott said.

So far, growers have been receptive to these strategies, according to Knott.

“The growers I have that grow for me will do everything they can to help. They understand by providing those pictures and stories, it helps their bottom line, and they always want to make customers happy,” he said.

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