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.
He said Pioneer’s growers are growing on slightly more acreage this season.
South Florida production usually runs through late April.
Growers start transplanting celery in September.
Florida grower-shippers were readying for another successful season.
Biederman said Pioneer’s growers planned to start by Oct. 31 or Nov. 1.
He called last year’s deal strong.
“It was a good season,” Biederman said. “We hope to have another strong season. The quality was great. Hopefully, the markets will hold and stay high.”
Biederman said quality looks excellent.
South Florida radish harvesting typically begins in mid-October and runs through early to mid-May, when Michigan begins summer production.
Duda plans to begin production in early November.
Bedsole agreed with Biederman and called last year’s deal strong.
He said radishes survive cold weather well and don’t have as many issues as other south Florida vegetables in freezing weather.
“Everything looks to have a good start,” Bedsole said.
In late October , the USDA reported $7.65-10.05 for cartons of bunched 24s for Mexican crossings through California and from Oxnard, Calif.
Last year, the USDA reported $8-8.65 for those same cartons from Mexico and Oxnard.
Because Duda markets cello radishes versus the bunched product of most of the West Coast markets, Bedsole said California and Mexico generally don’t have much of an effect on Florida’s prices.
L&M Cos., Raleigh, N.C., has increased its Georgia and Florida broccoli plantings by 30%.
Adam Lytch, operations manager, said broccoli has become a growing item for the grower-shipper.
“The Eastern broccoli deal has gained a lot of success in the marketplace,” he said. “Customers can have a fresher product, cut a lot of food miles out and get the product in the stores quicker.”
While L&M expects to start Georgia shipments in mid-November and harvest through early January, it plans to start its north Florida deal in Palatka in mid-December and run through mid-April.
In late October , the USDA reported cartons of bunched 14s from Salinas and Watsonville selling for $6.35-7.45 with 18s at $6.85-7.95.
L&M returns to Georgia spring production in mid-April.