Mother Nature hits veg crops hard

07/03/2013 11:07:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Tropical Storm Andrea wreaked havoc on vegetable crops throughout the South, including Tennessee and Kentucky.

“The whole spring has been the wettest anybody can remember,” said Lewis Walker, president of Tennessee Vegetable Packers Inc., Crossville. “There’s a tremendous amount of acreage lost.”

In late June, Tennessee Vegetable Packers was shipping a few squash and peppers and “a very precious handful of green beans,” Walker said.

“This is the latest I’ve ever seen green beans in the Cumberland Plateau in my whole life, and I’m pretty old.”

 

Rocky prices, volumes

Prices for Tennessee vegetables were very high in late June, and they were not expected to come down significantly anytime soon.

Corn also is expected to be down, and Walker said he’s sure Tennessee tomatoes also were significantly affected.

“It will be extremely tight through July,” Walker said. “We might have more after that, but it’s going to be a tough summer. There are a lot of long faces around here.”

Quality was good on vegetables that were being harvested in June, Walker said, but that also could change.

“Squash can’t stand a bunch of water,” he said. “In some areas, I’m sure there will be some quality issues.”

An overabundance of rain here, a lack of rain there, and other weather anomalies has made things interesting for vegetable shippers and receivers this year, said Kenny Pendergrass, vice president of purchasing at wholesaler Dixie Produce, Inc., Chattanooga, Tenn.

The South Florida corn deal, for instance, was a roller coaster for Memorial Day promotions, Pendergrass said.

It hasn’t been just local and regional deals that have affected Dixie’s spring business. Mother Nature also has had her way with celery and other western vegetables, Pendergrass said.

“The prices on celery were unbelievable,” he said.

 

Grow Farms shipping

Grow Farms, Louisville, Ky., began shipping hothouse tomatoes from its Granger County facility in May, president Brian Knott said.

The company is growing hothouse product on about 130 acres, 10% more than last year and 50% more than three years ago, Knott said.

“It’s a hot item for us,” he said. “It’s like having a homegrown vine-ripe, only six weeks earlier. It’s a great-quality tomato.”

Grow Farms also began shipping cucumbers the week of June 10 and squash and zucchini the week of June 17.

New this year, Grow Farms will ship miniature sweet peppers in 1-pound bags packed under the Grow Farms label. Two of the company’s grower partners are growing them this year, Knott said.



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