Michigan vegetables escape cold snap mostly unscathed

06/06/2012 10:49:00 AM
Andy Nelson

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. — Late freezes that devastated Michigan fruit crops mostly spared the state’s vegetables.

For the first time in a century, Michigan’s March was warmer than its April, said Todd Miedema, marketing director and principal for Hudsonville-based Miedema Produce Inc.

While the freeze dealt a devastating blow to the Wolverine State’s tree fruit crops, most vegetable crops escaped relatively unscathed and start dates should be close to normal, Miedema said.

The warm March weather didn’t lure Miedema Produce into planting early.

“I don’t care how hot it is in March — we are not putting celery in fields,” he said. “We know a freeze is coming. You just don’t take risks.”

High winds this spring could pose more problems to Michigan vegetable growers than the cold, but as of mid-May Miedema hadn’t heard of serious problems.

The company expects to begin shipping radishes and turnips about June 1, with leafy lettuces and zucchini following about June 20, celery by the Fourth of July and cucumbers by July 4-10.

Miedema Produce expects a similar mix of Michigan vegetables in 2012, Miedema said.

Mussey-based Mike Pirrone Produce Inc. also didn’t take any risks and plant early this season, said Butch DeBlouw, the company’s president.

Even with on-time plantings, however, by late May crops are running ahead of schedule, DeBlouw said.

“It’s as dry this year as it was wet last year, and everybody’s a couple of weeks ahead,” he said. “We feel better this year. Everyone was scrambling last year.”

Pirrone Produce was scheduled to begin harvesting greens, radishes and cilantro the week of May 28, zucchini and yellow squash June 10-12, cabbage June 12-15 and cucumbers June 20-22.

Hart-based Todd Greiner Farms expects to begin its sweet corn season earlier than usual this year, said Tyler Hodges, the company’s sales manager.

It’s the company’s, not Mother Nature’s, decision, Hodges said.

“We usually start in mid- to late August, but we’re starting on Aug. 1 this year to extend the season,” he said.

While it’s pushing up the start date of its Michigan corn deal, Greiner Farms also will have plenty for Labor Day, even if it means having product left over after the holiday, Hodges said.

In addition to shipping more sweet corn this season, Greiner Farms also has plans to boost its zucchini volumes, Hodges said. The company’s acreage climbed from 50 to 60 acres in 2011 to 80 to 90 acres this season.

Hudsonville-based Superior Sales expects to begin harvesting green cabbage in early June, ahead of last season’s late June start, said Todd DeWaard, the company’s sales manager.

“We haven’t had a lot of rain to interrupt plantings,” he said.

Next out of the gate for Superior will be zucchini and yellow squash in mid-June and cucumbers in late June, DeWaard said.

Superior expects a similar mix of vegetable commodities in 2012.

Cold, wet spring weather set vegetable crops planted by Sodus-based Leitz Farms LLC back about a week, said Fred Leitz, the company’s principal.

Leitz Farms expects to begin harvesting cucumbers in mid-June, grape tomatoes in mid-July, romas at the end of July and rounds in early August, Leitz said.

The company expects its product mix to be largely unchanged from 2011, Leitz said.

“I don’t like to jump between raindrops. Just because a crop is good last year doesn’t mean I’m going to plant more of it this year. If everybody else thought that, they’d plant more, too.”

Byron Center-based Hearty Fresh was shipping radishes already in mid-May. The company expects to begin shipping zucchini and squash about June 15, cabbage about June 20, cucumbers about June 25, celery about July 6 and grape, roma and round tomatoes about July 20, said Talbert Nething, the company’s general manager.

The company expects continued growth for its mini-sweet peppers, which it introduced in 2011.

“Demand was very good, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t continue to increase,” Nething said.

The company packs the peppers in one-pound clamshells, which have been a big hit with retailers, he said.

Byron Center-based E. Miedema & Sons expects to begin shipping zucchini, squash and cabbage about the third week of June, said Dave Miedema, the company’s president.

The warm March didn’t tempt Miedema into planting early.

“We just kind of watched the clock and didn’t pay attention” to the unseasonably warm growing weather in early spring, Miedema said.

For 2012, Miedema expects to ship a little less cabbage and a little more sweet corn.

“We have a little more contract business on sweet corn,” he said. The company expects to begin shipping Michigan sweet corn about July 20.

E. Miedema will likely ship summer squash and sweet corn through September, will fall squash following from about Labor Day to Thanksgiving. Cabbage also will likely ship until about Thanksgiving.



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