Rain cuts early volume, delays summer harvest

07/15/2011 11:49:00 AM
Amelia Freidline

Potentially lengthy delays and product shortages mark the start of this summer’s New York vegetable shipping season.

Torrential spring rains that struck growing regions in April and early May delayed plantings and damaged early production.

The rains kept growers out of the fields and will delay harvesting of major summer crops such as sweet corn, green beans, bell peppers, cucumbers and cabbage up to two weeks.

New York’s season usually starts in mid- to late July.

Because of the heavy spring rains, growers don’t expect many crops to start production until late July and early August, up to two weeks later than normal.

Planting delays

After experiencing one of the earliest seasons last year, Jason Turek, partner in King Ferry, N.Y.-based corn, beans, cabbage and squash grower-shipper Turek Farms, said this year may represent one of the latest.

“Some of the early crops are starting to show the ugly signs of desperation,” Turek said in mid-June.

“Growers aren’t supposed to plant into wet soils, but did as an act of despair to get something planted. It recently turned drier and that’s starting to show its effect on the plants. Any spot that was real wet won’t produce anything.”

While the early deal should see considerably less volume, Turek said he doesn’t expect quality to suffer.

Despite the deal starting up to 15 days later than normal, Maureen Marshall, vice president of Torrey Farms Inc., Elba, N.Y., said volume should return to normal once growers begin production.

“This is a very unusual and a historical year,” she said.

“Some people say they haven’t seen it like this since 1947-50. We went from one extreme to another. We started with too much rain and now we are off two inches of rain for June.”

Eric Hansen, vice president of cabbage grower Hansen Farms LLC, Stanley, N.Y., said this season would test shippers.

“It will be tight in July,” he said in mid-June.

“The whole state is in the same boat. Western New York is worse. This will be one of those years where we show our appreciation to the customers that have been loyal to us.”

Buyers should expect light cabbage volume through July.

“There will be a little gap in July that should make the deal very interesting,” said Tony Piedimonte, owner of James J. Piedimonte & Sons Inc., which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary as a company this year.

“All of July will find cabbage short as well as some other commodities. It depends on the weather until then.”

Dave Walczak, sales and operations manager of Eden Valley Growers, Eden, N.Y., said nearly a month of cold weather and rain made for a challenging season.

“Some of the growers in the northern New York counties were behind us in planting even more,” Walczak said.

“They weren’t able to get out and plant some of their early crops as early as we did. Their soil doesn’t dry as quickly.”

Walczak said buyers should expect bell peppers, corn, cabbage and eggplant to begin shipments in late July instead of mid-July.

On sweet corn, Tim Richards, salesman with Gill Corn Farms Inc., Hurley, N.Y., said growers were late with their early plantings but in mid-June began returning to normal schedules.

“Our corn deal is about on-schedule to maybe a little behind,” he said in mid-June.

“We should come out pretty even. We expect an excellent crop.”

John Williams, partner with Williams Farms LLC, Marion, N.Y., said the abnormally high rainfall harmed onion planting.

“It has been quite a nasty spring,” he said in mid-June.

“The Elba area was hurt bad and lost a lot of its onions.”

New York vegetable volume normally runs through late September and early October.



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