Warmer weather brings Santa Maria harvest closer to normal

04/12/2013 05:30:00 PM
Andy Nelson

After some weather-related delays in late winter and early spring, things were mostly back to normal by early April, grower-shippers say.

“We had some slow growth on some root vegetables, which held us back, but now we’re going full steam ahead,” said Ande Manos, saleswoman for Santa Maria, Calif.-based Babé Farms.

Baby vegetables — including beets, carrots, cauliflower, and head lettuce — along with radishes, arugula, spinach and organic kale will be among Babé Farms’ top Santa Maria-grown items in 2013, Manos said.

The company sources almost all of its valley vegetable items year-round, though not in the same volume.

“With the warmer temperatures and longer days, crops grow much quicker,” she said.

Shaky start to season

Spring was getting off to an interesting start for some valley growers, said Brent Scattini, vice president of sales for Santa Maria-based Gold Coast Packing Inc.

“April will be a little shaky,” he said. “From what I’m hearing, we’ll probably see a few planting gaps. We’re already hearing of some shortages.”

Scattini expects volumes to return to more typical seasonal levels by late April.

A certain air of uncertainty hangs over the spring Santa Maria deals, particularly on certain items, said Don Klusendorf, director of sales and marketing for Santa Maria-based Bonipak Produce Inc.

“Transition from Yuma on leaf items has been interesting,” Klusendorf said. “With the mild, warm weather in Santa Maria over the past three weeks, we are ahead of schedule on our current plantings.”

What effect, if any, that will have down the road remains to be seen, he said.

“Obviously, if you’re ahead of schedule, there is the possibility of shortages. The exact impact at this point is unknown. The weather in the coming weeks and months will provide us a better picture on yields and timing.”

Bonipak’s top spring items this season will be romaine, romaine hearts, red and green lettuces, cauliflower, broccoli, celery and cabbage, Klusendorf said.

Quality is good

While timing and volumes are somewhat up in the air, he said, quality is not.

“Quality is excellent due to the fantastic growing conditions we have experienced over the past few months. As a company, we’re doing a better job of planning both internally and externally with our customers. This helps us to be more consistent with our products.”

After a somewhat halting start to some of its spring Santa Maria deals, Pacific International Marketing was more or less back to business as usual by early April, said Henry Dill, sales manager for the Salinas, Calif.-based company.

Some items were delayed up to 12 days.

“The weather impacted us a little bit, but right now we’re in full swing on all our commodities,” he said.

Pacific International’s top Santa Maria items this spring include head and leaf lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, cilantro and fennel, Dill said.

Slower plant growth

The unseasonably cold weather early in the season affected timing, but likely little else, he said.

“I don’t think the cold had an adverse effect on yields and quality. The crops look good now.”

The first seasonal lettuce harvests began in early April, said Claire Wineman, president of the Guadalupe, Calif.-based Grower Shippers Association of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.

The growing season through March was marked by dry, temperate conditions, Wineman said.

“There hasn’t been a lot of rain, and it’s been fairly mild,” she said. “It’s not been nearly as cold as the last two years. We had a couple of frosts, but they didn’t damage the vegetables.”

Those frosts did, however, slow plants’ growth, Wineman said.

A possible concern this season, given the lack of cold weather, could be pest pressure, Wineman said.



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