Growers expand tomato programs

03/15/2013 01:51:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Several greenhouse growers are expanding their tomato programs this year.

Mucci Farms, Kingsville, Ontario, began harvesting tomatoes on the vine in late February, making it one of the earliest out of the gate in the Leamington area, said Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing.

The early start was due to the company’s addition of 30 new acres, which it planted early this season, Spano said.

While Mucci plans to stay pat on acreage for most of its other items, it will see an increase in tomatoes on the vine this year because of the new acreage, Spano said.

Mike Aiton, marketing director at Prime Time International, Coachella, Calif., said his company is significantly expanding its greenhouse tomato production.

Prime Time’s specialty is peppers, but the company is seeing strong demand for vine-ripened rounds, romas and grapes out of is Baja California greenhouse facility.

The company also sources greenhouse peppers from facilities in Coachella and mainland Mexico.

“We’ve added romas and we’ve had excellent response to vine-ripened tomatoes, so we’ve expanded that acreage, too,” Aiton said.

The decision to include romas in its greenhouse tomato offerings springs directly from the success Prime Time has enjoyed elsewhere in the category.

“We got into romas because our customers like our round program,” Aiton said. “It was just kind of a logical product extension.”

Madison, Maine-based Backyard Farms LLC grows three types of greenhouse tomatoes — clusters, beefsteak and cocktails — said Tim Cunniff, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

For 2013, the company is keeping its total tomato acreage the same, Cunniff said. But it is reconfiguring its product mix a bit in response to customer demand in the northeast.

“We’re growing a little more beefsteak to keep up with demand,” he said. “The last two years, beefsteaks have warranted additional production.”

Eatontown, N.J.-based Village Farms LP expects growth in its grape, cherry and other cocktail tomato products in 2013, said Doug Kling, the company’s chief sales and marketing officer.

After an at times sluggish year for greenhouse tomatoes in 2012, Kling expects the category to bounce back in 2013, thanks in part to less of a reliance on tomato-on-the-vine products.

Langley, British Columbia-based BC Hot House Foods Inc. added two new growers this season.

One of those growers, Creekside, has a new facility devoted to specialty tomatoes, said Mike Reed, BC’s president.



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