Weather kick-starts vegetable production

04/26/2012 11:53:00 AM
Tom Burfield

California’s desert growing region — the Coachella Valley in particular — may be known primarily for the tons of table grapes it produces each spring, but growers also produce a wide variety of vegetables, including bell peppers, corn and eggplant.

Good growing conditions should result in good-quality product with about the same volume as last year, said Dick Keber, partner in Keber Distributing Inc., Thermal, Calif.

Timely start, good quality

Keber Distributing plans to kick off its spring/summer season in early May with sweet corn, beans and eggplant, Keber said.

He expects corn to start on schedule the first week of May and continue until the second or third week of June.

Some growers started producing corn as early as the second week of April in the Imperial Valley, to the south, he said.

The company also plans to start its monthlong eggplant program the first week of May, though it’s hard to predict whether eggplant will be a good seller, Keber said.

“Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not,” he said.

The firm planned to start harvesting its beans the week of April 23 and should continue until the second or third week of May. Keber also expected good quality as a result of cool nights, moderate temperatures during the day and no late freezes.

Short pick for green beans

Peter Rabbit Farms, Coachella, Calif., was scheduled to start its green bean program April 23, said John Burton, general manager of sales and cooler. He was optimistic about quality.

“The flowers are just forming beans now,” he said the first week of April. “It looks like they’re going to be a real good crop.”

The company will only have about a 10-day pick this season.

“The timing wasn’t quite right for us this year,” Burton said. “The acres didn’t fall into place like we hoped.”

The firm aimed for post-Easter business rather than the pre-Easter business, he said, adding that, “Sometimes the window after Easter can be a profitable one.’

He expected the company’s green bean deal, which was scheduled to start April 25, to be over by the first week of May. The firm’s eggplant program should start in mid-May.

In the Imperial Valley, Brawley-based Five Crowns Marketing made its first shipments of sweet corn the week of April 9, said Daren Van Dyke, director of sales and marketing.

Conditions produce good size, yield

Five Crowns will have corn from the Imperial Valley into June and also kick off a program in the Coachella Valley in early May and continue through Memorial Day.

Unlike last year, when a February freeze affected yields and the strength of the plants, excellent growing conditions this seasons should result in some of the best early corn the company has ever produced in terms of size and yields, Van Dyke said.

Five Crowns also will have varietal melons and cantaloupes from the Imperial Valley during May, he said.

The Coachella Valley is a major spring production area for green and red bell peppers, including shade house produce, said Jose Luis Aguiar, vegetable crops/small farm adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension, Riverside.

The region also produces sweet corn, eggplant and mature-green tomatoes, he said, along with many watermelons, though not as many as in the past, Aguiar said.

In the Imperial Valley, Khaled Bali, irrigation and water management adviser and county director for the University of California Cooperative Extension, Imperial County, said the area is known for its sweet corn and melons at this time of year.

Keber hopes growers will have better luck during the spring than they did in the winter.

Thanks to good weather, farmers ended up growing more winter vegetables — such as celery, broccoli, lettuce and cauliflower — than they could sell.

“Everything was in the tank” after the second week of January except for corn and strawberries, he said.

The only item retailers promoted at a reasonable price during the winter was corn, he said.



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