BYRON CENTER, Mich. — Michigan grower-shippers were happy to see spring finally arrive this year.
“Winter was too long,” said Dave Miedema, co-owner of E. Miedema & Sons. “Everything was pushed back.”
Weather was unseasonably cold until about the week of May 5, Miedema said.
Miedema & Sons typically has started transplanting cabbage from greenhouses to fields by April 1, Miedema said. This year the company didn’t start planting until April 15.
By mid-May, however, Mother Nature was starting to give Miedema and other Michigan growers a break.
“We’ve made up some ground,” Miedema said May 13. “We’ve had some favorable weather and we haven’t had any frost.”
Cabbage harvest for Miedema & Sons could start by June 20, a week later than normal, with volume by July 1. Shipments should run through mid-November.
The company’s sweet corn crop was less affected by the cold start to spring than cabbage was, Miedema said.
“We were able to start planting about April 18, right on target, and we’ve been planting 80 acres a week since.”
Rain delayed planting the week of April 12, he said, but the company planted more the week before to compensate.
Miedema & Sons expects to start picking corn about July 20, with peak volumes expected by Aug. 1. The company will likely ship through mid-September.
“We usually hit it hard until Labor Day before tailing off,” he said.
Miedema & Sons’ acreage on cabbage and corn should be similar to last year, Miedema said.
The company also expects to hold steady on its summer and winter squash volumes this year, with about 320 acres planted.
Miedema & Sons expects to ship zucchini from about June 20 through September.
Rain in mid-May gave crops grown by Sodus-based Leitz Farms LLC a nice boost, said Fred Leitz, the company’s principal.
“It’s been dry. This was the first significant rain since the 1st of April. We’re happy to see it.”
Leitz Farms should begin harvesting cucumbers in late June, grape tomatoes and cantaloupes in mid-July, romas at the end of July and rounds about Aug. 1, Leitz said.
Also reporting late starts to the summer Michigan deals was Byron Center-based Van Solkema Produce, said Talbert Nething, the company’s sales manager.
Van Solkema could begin shipping radishes about June 1, squash in mid-June, cabbage at the end of June or in early July, cucumbers about July 10, celery about July 15 and carrots July 15-20.
Deals could run a week or two late, though in mid-May it was still too early to tell definitively, Nething said.
Other than the late start, the cold start to spring shouldn’t affect yields, quality or sizing, Nething said.
The late start isn’t ideal, but Nething was optimistic it wouldn’t affect Michigan’s marketing window too much.
“You’re always worried, but I’m still optimistic. I think we’ll still be OK.”
Van Solkema increased its cucumber and bean acreage in Michigan in 2014 and significantly increased its squash acreage, said Todd Van Solkema, the company’s chief executive officer.
Van Solkema’s pepper, radish, cabbage and carrot acreage are comparable to last year.
Much of the company’s Michigan production, Van Solkema said, has been beefed up to keep pace with its production boosts in Mexico and the Southeast, Van Solkema said.
As the company has significantly increased its imports of squash through Nogales, Ariz., for instance, it saw the need to keep pace in Michigan.
Year-round production, he said, lifts all boats.
“It’s good for Michigan,” Van Solkema said. “And it’s imperative, if you’re adding foodservice and chain business. If you’re not in front of the customer 365 days a year, you’re getting left behind.”
Hudsonville-based Superior Sales expected to begin shipping cabbage in mid-June, said Todd DeWaard, the company’s sales manager.
“Early on was a struggle with sun hours in the greenhouses,” he said. “The plants in the greenhouse were looking a little rough.”
Superior should follow with zucchini and yellow squash in mid- to late June, DeWaard said.
Cucumber and pepper production each are expected to be up by 10% to 20% this year for Superior after the company added a new grower partner, DeWaard said.
Cukes should ship beginning in early June, leaf lettuces in mid-June, celery around the Fourth of July and peppers in mid-July, DeWaard said.
Superior continues to see its squash category evolve, said Jordan Vande Guchte, a Superior salesman. Specifically, acorn demand continues to go down as demand for spaghetti and butternut rises.
“It used to be 2-to-1 in favor of acorn, now it’s 3-to-1 butternut, and spaghetti is similar,” Vande Guchte said.
Part of that can be traced to a trend among TV chefs to showcase butternut and spaghetti.
“We need to get the Food Network needs to push acorn,” he said.
Hudsonville-based Miedema Produce Inc. expected to begin harvesting its signature crop, radishes, in Michigan June 5-10, said Todd Miedema, marketing director and principal.
That’s a little later than usual, thanks to the cold start to spring, but because of the company’s Arizona radish production, the two deals will still overlap, Miedema said.
“We always overlap by design,” Miedema said. “We’re the only year-round radish shipper in the country. Our customers never realize a hiccup.”
Besides, Miedema said, a cool start is better than the other end of the spectrum.
“Between a little too hot and a little too cool, we’ll take a little too cool. Vegetables like that.”
Miedema Produce expects turnips, leafy lettuces and zucchini to follow on the heels of its radish deal in about the third week of June, Miedema said.
By about the Fourth of July the company should have celery in Michigan, with cucumbers following in mid-July and peppers shortly thereafter, Miedema said. Carrots should begin shipping about Aug. 1.
Overall, Miedema expects another good year for Michigan vegetables.
“Last year was excellent, and we’re looking for more of the same this year,” he said. “We try to grow a little bit.”