Workers for Jackson Farming Co. transplant cantaloupe in April. ( Courtesy Jackson Farming Co. )

Spring typically brings a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables from the Carolinas, and this year is no exception, suppliers and marketers say.

Autryville, N.C.-based Jackson Farming Co. was harvesting strawberries in North Carolina, with “good quantities coming off,” said Matt Solana, vice president of operations/supply chain.

Jackson anticipated a start to its spring broccoli harvest around May 20, and fields were “looking good” for that to occur, Solana said.

The company also started to transplant seedless watermelons April 29, with a first harvest in North Carolina set for June 30, Solana said. He noted that honeydew transplanting began May 5-6, for a first harvest planned for July 7.

There have been few weather issues, he said.

“Most of them were on the front side prior to planting, and the strawberries went through a tough new year with weather and covers,” he said. 

“(We’re) just working out of that and should start to get to the best of the berry season if the rain will spare us.”

Few hurricane woes

Marketers reported no carryover issues from last summer’s big hurricanes, Michael and Florence.

“We had a lot of (hurricane) damage as a state, but the peach industry fared much better than some other industries and crops,” said Kyle Tisdale, marketing specialist with the South Carolina Department of Agriculture. 

“The (peach) crop this year looks good. There will be good volume throughout the summer and we’re expecting a high-quality crop.”

Fairfax, S.C.-based Coosaw Farms (Coosaw Ag LLC) is optimistic about its blueberries, Asian vegetables and watermelon, said Bradley O’Neal, owner.

Seeded and seedless watermelon should be underway around June 1, O’Neal said.

“The melon crop is going to be a little bit ahead of schedule,” he said, crediting “It just looks like a good year fixing to shape up.”

Organic and conventional blueberry harvest started in mid-April, O’Neal said.

“That’s coming along real nicely,” he said. “Both look like a good, solid yield; the quality looks great. Everything seems to moving pretty good on those.”

Harvest on napa and Asian green cabbage began in late April, and the quality looks good, although the Asian green cabbage looks a little “rounder” on top than it should, O’Neal said.

“It tastes just as good round as flat but they like that head flat,” he said. “Evidently, some weather phenomenon during the season caused it to stay not flat on the top.”

Spuds looking good

North Carolina’s potato crop appeared to be “in excellent condition” for a mid- to late June start, said Tommy Fleetwood, a marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and advisor to the North Carolina Potato Association.

North Carolina produces round whites, reds, and yellows for the table market.

“The market season fills the niche window of market opportunity when storage states crops are winding down and going out of condition and before these late summer-fall areas begin harvest,” Fleetwood said.

North Carolina potatoes are shipped throughout the eastern U.S. and eastern Canadian markets, Fleetwood said.

Plenty of leafy greens and squash will be available from Pelion, S.C.-based WP Rawl, said Ashley Rawl, sales director.

“Right now, everything looks really good and seems to be on schedule,” he said. 

“Praise the Lord, there’s nothing negative from the last hurricane season. We’ve finally made our way past that. It really took into March and April. We’re finally out of that.”

WP Rawl grows collards, kale, mustard greens, turnips, cilantro, beets, leeks and green onions. In late May, the company will start with zucchini and yellow squash, with sweet corn starting around June 10, Rawl said.

Markets appeared to be “steady” in early May, Rawl said.

“Now, I’d say they’re mostly steady compared to where we’d been the last six months,” he said. 

“There was a lot of volatility with the hurricanes that came through the Southeast, but steady and stable right now, for the most part.”

Crops catching up

Good weather has helped crops doing some catching up, said Jon Shriver, vegetable sales manager with Raleigh, N.C.-based grower-shipper L&M Cos.

“Although the fairly wet weather experienced throughout the state in the early spring months pushed back planting dates for broccoli, potatoes, and onions, and is expected to bring somewhat smaller than usual cabbage yields, a recent spate of good weather has helped the crops to catch up,” Shriver said. 

“L&M’s partner farms will be harvesting cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, squash, bell peppers, potatoes, and onions throughout the spring and summer.” 

“Solid” markets are expected for potatoes and onions during the summer, said Derek Ennis, L&M’s director of potatoes and onions.

“The demand for our North Carolina potato crop has been increasing each year, and we have solid local partners for our programs which helps ease some of the market volatility,” he said.

The Northwest is quickly finishing up their storage onion crop, Texas has a smaller crop than normal, and North Dakota has fewer potatoes in storage, Ennis said.

Ennis said L&M is already seeing good demand for its Florida potatoes and the colored potato crop is progressing nicely. Harvesting is expected in mid-June. 

Shriver noted that the market for cabbage should be good and that broccoli markets, which are “typically very volatile from Georgia to Maine, are hard to predict, with a large factor dependent on whether temperatures remain below 85 degrees.”

As long as weather stays cool enough, the crops should be good quality, he said.

Cucumbers, squash, and bell pepper markets are dependent on Georgia and how quickly the northern regions begin production, Shriver said.

“Quality is coming along well, and the crops look good,” he said.

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