Growers call season ideal

11/02/2009 01:20:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

The early fall rains slowed some growers from preparing land and laying plastic.

“The weather has since broken and it has been pretty nice, though we’ve had a lot of heat in the last few days,” Adam Lytch, southeast grower development director for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., said in mid-October. “All considering, for the rains we have had, our crops in Immokalee look really good.”

Ideal fall weather

Scott Seddon, brand manager with Pero Vegetable Co. LLC, Delray Beach, said early fall weather has been ideal for the southern vegetables it grows throughout south Florida, including Palm Beach County, Fort Myers and Immokalee, Homestead and the Fort Pierce-Stuart areas.

“It’s textbook conditions now,” he said. “The weather has been our friend this year.”
Because it has diversified much of its production into warmer areas near the East Coast, Seddon said Pero didn’t suffer as much freeze damage that harmed other growers.
Otherwise, growers were expecting high quality harvests.

“We are looking for things to start off well,” said Mike Shier, sales manager for the vegetable department of Six L’s Packing Co. Inc., Immokalee. “Last year, we had a good start to the season. We are looking for the program to be relatively unchanged.”

Low prices

Jim Monteith, sales manager for Immokalee-based Pacific Collier Fresh Co., which grows and ships bell peppers, cucumbers and squash, characterized recent prices as low.

He said it seemed like all vegetables were cheap during the spring. Prices increased a little after the freezes, but didn’t remain high for long, Monteith said.

Monteith, however, remains optimistic for the season.

“The growing season has been favorable, and the weather has been fine,” he said in mid-October. “Thank goodness we haven’t had to deal with tropical storms or hurricanes so far this year.”

By the end of October, central Florida growers had started harvesting items such as bell peppers, cucumbers and squash, while south Florida production was expected to start in early to mid-November.

Though most shippers say they expect to market from similar acreage, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports acreage increases for cabbage (29%), corn (11%), and green beans (8%).

Growers reduced tomato and bell pepper plantings by 3% each while cucumber plantings remain unchanged, according to the USDA.

Bell peppers, cucumbers and squash account for nearly half of the state’s fall vegetable acreage, according to the USDA.


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