Gene Barnett, south Florida operations manager of L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., inspects some recently staked eggplant in early October. Florida growers also grow and ship squash.
Gene Barnett, south Florida operations manager of L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., inspects some recently staked eggplant in early October. Florida growers also grow and ship squash.

IMMOKALEE, Fla. — The Sunshine State’s grower-shippers are eyeing a typical fall season for most items.

Growers expect sweet corn and green beans, however, to start with lighter-than-normal volume after heavy rains disrupted plantings.

Though prices for some vegetables including cucumbers and squash were lower in late October, demand hasn’t waned as production begins to transition from south Georgia to Florida, grower-shippers report.

“It’s nice to be coming into the Florida season with what seems like increasing demand for the Florida items,” said Adam Lytch, operations manager for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc. “It seem like we have been riding a trailing market. All the markets are now on the uptick, and that’s a good way to start the season.”

During the early fall, Florida experienced warm temperatures but escaped damaging weather, which helps produce favorable plant stands, he said in late October.

Calvert Cullen, president of Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., Cheriton, Va., said he’s hearing of fewer vegetable acres but said his Florida acreage remains similar.

“I think the Georgia to Florida transition will be good,” he said in late October. “The North Carolina to Georgia transition hasn’t gone well because of a lot of Georgia acreage hurt by the rains, and that’s why we are seeing a lot of high prices like with beans.”

Central Florida’s fall tomato deal began on-time in mid-October with growers harvesting small volumes of grape and cherry tomatoes.

Mature-greens and romas were expected to begin in early November and heavy volume should commence during the third week November, said Tony DiMare, vice president of the Homestead-based DiMare Co.

“Overall, I don’t think there’s anything different from years’ past,” DiMare said in late October. “The weather has been favorable, and finally temperatures have cooled. It’s drier now, and we have lower humidity levels, which always translates into good growth in the crops. That will eventually make for good tomatoes.”

On beans, volume should be down by as much as 50% before Thanksgiving but should return to normal levels in early December, said Gary Stafford, a salesman and green beans manager for South Bay-based Hugh H. Branch Inc.

Five Bros. Produce Inc., Homestead, started harvesting its beans and squash in late October, about a week to two weeks earlier than normal.

“Things look very nice and the season should be very promising,” salesman Donny Dulevich said in late October. “We are having perfect weather.”

Corn growers expect to harvest 30% to 40% of normal volume during early November, said Brett Bergmann, a Branch co-owner.

“That will create a bit of a splotchy start, and the crop in general will be less than it has in the past,” Bergmann said in late October. “Hopefully, it should stabilize sometime after Thanksgiving heading to Christmas.”

Earlier maturing strawberries should help retailers run Christmas promotions.

Buyers should expect larger shipments in late November and early December, ahead of the typical lighter late November and early December volume that builds to promotable levels in late December, said Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Plant City-based Wish Farms.

“The early plantings look really good, and they’re on-track,” he said in late October. “It looks like we should have a lot of production at the end of November.”

Brian Rayfield, vice president of business development and marketing for J&J Family of Farms Inc., Loxahatchee, said October tropical storms could lessen movement and keep markets active during the early part of the deal.

“Everything is looking really good this season,” he said in late October. “I think there’s very little anxiety over the weather this fall. Demand will be good, and product will be good. Demand could exceed supply in some circumstances, and movement should be very good.”

Dan Sleep, a senior analyst with the division of marketing for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, said Florida growers escaped major hurricane damage.

“We should see solid uninterrupted production for the next six or seven months — unless we get hit by severe freezes,” he said in late October. “Barring that, our farmers are poised to have a great year.”