Some New Jersey growers are bullish on organics, but others have yet to see the category take off.
Glassboro, N.J.-based Sunny Valley International’s organic blueberry grower-partner has almost doubled its acreage for 2013, said Bob Von Rohr, Sunny Valley’s marketing and customer relations manager.
The partner, Hammonton, N.J.-based Big Buck Farms LLC, which markets organic blueberries under the Little Buck Organics label, is the largest organic blueberry grower in New Jersey, Von Rohr said.
“Demand has been running good on organics,” Von Rohr said.
And it’s not just among specialty retailers, he said. Organic blueberry sales have been growing across the board in retail.
Cedarville, N.J.-based Eastern Fresh Growers Inc. sells organic vegetables grown by president Tom Sheppard’s brother and niece.
Squash, eggplant and lettuce are among Eastern Fresh’s top New Jersey-grown organic sellers.
One newer item in the Sheppard family’s rotation is organic grape tomatoes.
“It’s been a good one for him,” Sheppard said, citing industrywide category growth for organic grape tomatoes.
Growth in the category for Eastern Fresh has come more from adding commodities and less from expanding existing ones, Sheppard said.
“Once you fill demand, the excess capacity has to go somewhere else.”
Tim Wetherbee, sales manager for Diamond Blueberry Inc., Hammonton, N.J., said his company once again won’t market any Jersey-grown organic blueberries this season.
“There are only two people in the area I know of who do organic, and that’s minimal acreage,” he said.
For many growers, the price premium isn’t enough to justify the added expense of growing organics, Wetherbee said.
He also said organic blueberries are a better fit for regions where harvest isn’t concentrated in such a short period of time, as it is in New Jersey.
“We have such an intense operation here,” he said. “It works better where it can be strung out.”