PALMETTO, Fla. — Hotter than normal weather had central Florida picking its fall cucumbers much earlier than normal.

The harvesting came as an oversupply of supers from the Northeast to south Georgia caused prices to fall, shippers said.

Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, began its pickings in early October, about 10 days ahead of normal.

Jeff Williams, president, said the grower-shipper of pole-grown cucumbers was gaining volume.

“We started cucumbers a little out of our window,” he said in mid-October. “It’s a lot earlier than we would like it to be. The weather has been so hot that we’re really starting to get some decent volume. When you’re in the 90s during the days when you’re supposed to be in the 80s, and you have warm nighttime temperatures, they grow all night.”

Warm weather starts early cucumber harvesting

Doug Ohlemeier

Brian Turner, partner with Wiers-Turner Farms LLC, Palmetto, Fla., (left), and farm managers Kenny Foy and Skeeter Bethea, view some central Florida pole-grown cucumbers in late September.
Hotter than normal weather in September and early October had central Florida picking its fall cucumbers a little earlier than normal.
The harvesting started as an oversupply of supers from the Northeast to south Georgia caused prices to fall, shippers say.
Turner describes quality as high and says central Florida should pick until mid- to late December.

Hearne plans to ship more cucumbers this season.

The company nearly doubled its acreage from above 100 acres last fall to 200 acres this season, Williams said.

Williams attributes the increase to relocation of its growing region from near Myakka City to fields near Parrish.

The company took over a farm that had many tomato stakes erected, he said.

Central Florida’s cucumber deal normally starts in mid-October.

Steady market

Mike Shier, sales manager for the vegetable department of Six L’s Packing Co. Inc., Immokalee, characterized the cucumber market in mid-October as steady.

He said cucumbers called for decent prices during the first couple of weeks of September, but have been moderate since.

Shier quoted $10 for super selects in early and mid-October.

“Going into the first week of October, things kind of fell apart,” he said.

Shier attributed the collapse to overproduction in northern producing areas.

After experiencing a small weather-related skip, Michigan was late in packings combined with New Jersey and North Carolinas fall pickings, he said.

Shier said the Florida deal normally sees $14-16 f.o.b.s going into Thanksgiving as North Carolina and production areas north of Georgia usually bow out of the deal by then, leaving declining Georgia production and limited early Florida volume.

He said the cucumber market normally remains active during the first three weeks of November.

Market firming up

Adam Lytch, southeast grower development director for Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. Inc., which grows and ships from Arcadia and Immokalee, said the cucumber deal was beginning to firm up in mid-October.  

Arrival of cooler weather should help slow crops and improve the markets, he said.

Jim Monteith, sales manager for Pacific Collier Fresh Co., Immokalee, said fall cucumber prices didn’t fall as low as squash.

He quoted supers selling for $12 in late September, when production was going from the Northeast through Georgia.

Production fell even further in mid-October when he quoted supers selling for $10.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 1/9 bushel cartons of waxed medium cucumbers from south Georgia in late October sold for $16.35-20.85, with fair quality going for $10.35-12.85. Cartons of 24s sold for $6.35-8.85.

Last year, 1 1/9 bushel cartons of waxed medium cucumbers from south Georgia in mid-October sold for $16-18.35, with fair quality going for $10-10.35 and cartons of 24s selling for $8.

Monteith said Pacific Collier’s growers planned to begin pickings in late November.

Immokalee’s cucumber deal normally runs through the end of December.

Central Florida pickings

Willard, Ohio-based Wiers Farm Inc., which has Florida pole-grown cucumber production through Wiers-Turner Farms LLC, began its harvesting Oct. 1 in light volume.

Dean Wiers, Wiers Farm’s sales manager, said volume picked up into consistent pickings by Oct. 19.

“The quality looks outstanding,” he said in mid-October.

Wiers-Turner plans to continue pickings to mid- to late December, depending on how low temperatures fall.

Last fall, Wiers-Turner picked through the end of December with smaller volumes on the latter end.

Wishnatzki Farms, Plant City, sells kirby pickling cucumbers from a large grower.

Gary Wishnatzki, president, said the deal, which started pickings in late September, has brought an oversupply of pickling cucumbers.

“We have an abundant amount of pickles this fall,” Wishnatzki said in mid-October.

“Prices are running fairly low. They probably will stay low because of the volume we are putting out this fall.”

Prices are about as low as ever, Wishnatzki said. He said the 3A size, or dills as they are also referenced, the most popular size, have been selling for around $12.85.