The Mid-Atlantic produce marketing window is short — in some cases, only about six weeks — but growers and shippers in the region say proximity to numerous large markets opens up considerable sales potential for the time they’re allotted.
“I figure the location, close to the major metropolitan areas of the Northeast, gives us the advantage of lower freight rates to Washington, Philly, Baltimore, New York and Boston,” said David Hickman, vice president of Horntown, Va.-based vegetable grower-shipper Dublin Farms.
Growers in the Mid-Atlantic region can get a jump on their colleagues in Northeastern states and supply buyers in those states with plentiful supplies early in the summer, Hickman said.
“With the time period, we have a pretty good opportunity,” he said.
The market stretches along the Eastern Seaboard, essentially from New England to Georgia, growers and shippers say.
“It’s a great area to be, so close to the metro areas with such large populations, and we get a lot of local support from customers in all those marketing areas,” said Bob Von Rohr, director of marketing and customer relations with Glassboro, N.J.-based Sunny Valley International Inc.
The concentration of restaurants in all those large cities figures into the marketing efforts, too, said Russell Brown, salesman with Oak Grove, Va.-based Parker Farms.
“Between the D.C.-Baltimore-Richmond corridor, there’s a lot of chefs who push local,” he said.
Wyoming, Del.-based Fifer Orchards’ location provides an opportunity to take an “ultra-local” approach, said Curt Fifer, sales director.
“That’s our business model,” he said.
The company concentrates on customers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, with a particular focus on Baltimore and Washington, D.C., he said.
“We’re so close to those two locations, it’s great for our operation and our farm and it’s helped us to grow,” Fifer said.
Fifer said his season runs basically from mid-May to mid-June.
Location is a key marketing advantage, said Butch Nottingham, marketing representative with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in Onley.
“We are actually within 750 miles of 60% of the country. We have a big reach in the East and go a little bit out West,” he said.
Colora, Md.-based fruit grower Colora Orchards works to get the most out of its location, too, said Steve Balderston, who manages the 150-acre apple and peach operation.
“We’re almost in the middle of a three-state area — Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware — so we have access, within an hour, of Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore/Annapolis and Washington, which really helps,” he said.
New York is only a 2½-hour ride away, he said.
“But we try to concentrate on that three-state area, since there’s a huge population to choose from right here,” he said.
Balderston said there are upwards of 10 million people within 70 miles of his operation.
“It’s a large and diverse population, and basically that’s what we’ve tried to concentrate on the last 25 years,” he said.
The location also has a dependable climate, said Richard Papen, owner of Papen Farms, Dover, Del.
“We very seldom get tornadoes, and we don’t get too many large hurricanes, so we miss the severe weather most of the time. It’s a very good location,” he said.