Cucumbers get a head start on spring crops in Ontario - The Packer

Cucumbers get a head start on spring crops in Ontario

02/02/2012 06:46:00 PM
Coral Beach

Coral BeachCarl Mastronardi, president of Del Fresco Produce in Kingsville, Ontario, plans to begin harvesting by the end of February, with full production hitting around the third week of March in his greenhouses.LEAMINGTON, Ontario — Some greenhouse growers in Ontario were already harvesting cucumbers in January and several expect to have mature tomatoes and bell peppers as early as the first week of March.

Harvest in the southwest area of the province, along the north shore of Lake Erie, should be in full swing by mid-March for most commodities.

Slightly higher overall volumes are expected from the region in 2012 because of additional acres coming into production.

As for pricing, the weather in Florida and other growing regions in the Southern U.S. is the key determining factor for the Ontario growers.

The freeze in Florida in early January could mean more demand for Ontario greenhouse tomatoes.

However, Dino Dilaudo, salesman for Westmoreland Sales, said freezes down South can sometimes hurt the growers up North.

“If it happens at the wrong time they can replant and then we are in a surplus situation (with tomatoes),” he said.

Westmoreland’s cucumbers are a different story, though.

The company has year-round production in its Ontario greenhouses for regular and mini cukes. Dilaudo said the “really good volumes” begin in February and continue through November.

All of the Ontario growers keep an eye on the weather in Southern growing regions at this time of year, though.

“There’s no doubt our prices are linked to what is happening with the field-grown tomatoes in other regions,” Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing for Kingsville-based Mucci Farms, said on Jan. 17.

“Our harvest predictions are good and we are hoping for strong markets, but there’s no way to predict prices this early.”

Spano said Mucci ships about 100,000 cases of fresh greenhouse produce a week.

The 2011 summer heat wave had some negative effects on the company’s volumes, but Spano said additional acres coming online this year should help balance those kinds of unpredictable factors.

At Kingsville-based Del Fresco Produce Ltd. workers planted the 2012 tomato crop during the first week of December, said president Carl Mastronardi.

By the third week of January those plants were more than 4 feet tall and the fruit was already bigger than golf balls.

“In the old days we would have said ‘flip a coin’ at this time of year if you asked us about yield. But with modern greenhouses and growing techniques we can tell now that we are in good shape,” Mastronardi said.

Coral BeachJay Colasanti, of the sales and marketing staff at Nature Fresh Farms in Leamington, Ontario, expects tomato harvest to begin as early as the third week of February in some of the company's greenhouses, with full production anticipated by March 5.“Don’t ask about price, though. That’s still a coin flip. There are too many factors outside our control for us to know (in January) what prices will be like when we get into full harvest in March,” he said.

Company officials at Ruthven-based Clifford Produce Sales Inc. also expressed optimism about the 2012 season.

Jennifer Selwood, sales coordinator, and Phil Thornton, sales manager, said the company’s 16 grower shareholders’ farms had planting schedules that began in mid-December through the last week of January.

The earliest of the Clifford crops — mini cucumbers — were ready for picking by the end of January. Various tomato and bell pepper varieties are expected to reach maturity in March.

A reorganization of staff and operations at Clifford, plus a few additional acres for the 2012 season, should mean up to 6% sales growth for the company this year, Selwood said.

Nature Fresh Farms in Leamington plans to begin harvesting bell peppers the first week of March, according to Jay Colasanti of the company’s sales and marketing department.

He said the company’s beefsteak tomatoes, which were planted Dec. 5, would beat the peppers to market, with the initial round of picking expected in the third week of February.

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