Demand expected strong for 2010 Ohio veg crops

06/04/2010 01:32:03 PM
Andy Nelson

If 2010 is anything like 2009, Ohio grower-shippers should enjoy strong demand for their fresh-market vegetables this summer, said Kirk Holthouse, general manager of Willard-based Holthouse Farms of Ohio Inc.

“Last year we were nervous about what it would be like, with stocks down, the economy flat,” he said. “But what remained constant was demand for fresh produce. It’s been as good as it’s ever been.”

Holthouse said the company never had a lull in the market last summer where there was no de-mand. Part of that can be traced not just to high demand but to Holthouse Farms’ diversified customer base, he said.

Retail, foodservice, wholesale, terminal markets — the company is well-represented in all four, Holthouse said. Contracted sales help take some of the uncertainty out of the market, too, he said.

“We like to have a steady diet of customers,” he said. “Keep the merchandise turning.”

Summer demand was off to a great start in mid-May for Willard-based Buurma Farms Inc., said Loren Buurma, co-owner.

“The radish market is very hot right now,” Buurma said, referring to the first commodity out of the gate for Buurma Farms.

“Florida finished up early, so there’s a gap. It should stay tight for a good month.”

In two decades, Don Bettinger, president of Swanton, Ohio-based Bettinger Farms Inc., can’t remem-ber a sweet corn crop that was as delayed as much by rain and cool weather as much as this year’s crop has been.

As a result, plantings are being clustered together much more this year, instead of being spread out. But Bettinger isn’t worried that that will lead to a corresponding glut of product come harvest.

That’s because the newer super-sweet corn varieties Bettinger plants can stay in the field for about a week once they’re harvest-ready, allowing growers to spread out their harvesting.

“The old varieties, if you can’t get them out in two days, you’re history,” he said. “I don’t think there will be a glut this year.”

Bettinger also expects strong demand to help take care of any potential gluts, as it did in 2009, which Bettinger describes as probably the company’s best year ever.

“There were no gluts last year, and we had a lot of production,” he said. “I think it will all balance out.”

The recession didn’t have — and isn’t continuing to have — much of an effect on Ohio summer vegetable sales for North Fairfield-based Doug Walcher Farms, said Ken Holthouse, general manager.

More of an effect was seen on the company’s fall ornamental sales, Holthouse said.

If consumers have to choose between a pumpkin for their child and gourds or Indian corn, they’ll pick the pumpkin, he  said — whereas pre-recession they may have pur-chased both.

Packs have gotten smaller in some cases, to lessen the sticker shock, Holthouse said.

“People are trying smaller retail packs — five gourds instead of 10,” he said.



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