BELLE GLADE, Fla. — During the winter, the Sunshine State grows celery, radishes and broccoli.
Palm Beach county growers grow celery while broccoli is primarily grown in the northern part of the state.
While Florida grower-shippers usually start harvesting in late December with promotable volumes hitting after the first of the year, the region’s biggest celery grower has moved things up and is planning to begin harvesting earlier than normal.
Duda Farm Fresh Foods Inc., the fresh division of Oviedo-based A. Duda & Sons Inc., plans to start its Belle Glade-area production in early December, about three weeks earlier than usual.
Jason Bedsole, sales manager of Eastern vegetables and citrus, said the grower-shipper purposely planted earlier and increased its plantings so it could hit the Christmas and New Year’s windows.
He said plantings were underway in mid-October and were proceeding well.
The growing region has experienced favorable weather and things look well for the crop, Bedsole said.
While California’s year-round production areas dominate the market, Bedsole said Florida’s deal generally begins at higher prices than California. He said local and regional demand and lower freight costs account for that higher price.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cartons of 2½ dozen from Salinas, Calif., in late October sold for $9.45-10.56.
Last year, the USDA reported those cartons from Salinas in mid-October selling for $13-14.56.
Bryan Biederman, assistant sales manager for Pioneer Growers Co-op, said the co-op’s growers expect to begin shipments of the Grassy Waters-branded celery Jan. 1.
“Celery was great for us last year,” Biederman said. “The quality was excellent. We have had strong customer response.”
Pioneer’s growers, who re-entered the celery deal last season, started small but plan to increase the deal as business warrants, Biederman said.