Workers at Coosemans-Denver are set to resume packing retail herbs in clamshells for a major supermarket chain. Coosemans is a specialty produce supplier that offers hundreds of products, including ginger, shallots and fresh culinary herbs, says Garrick Macek, vice president of operations. ( Courtesy Coosemans-Denver )

Supplies of a few local products could be a bit tight this summer, but for the most part, Colorado distributors will have plenty of good-quality fruits and vegetables to sell.

Shipments of Colorado potatoes and onions have been tight because of a freeze last October that wiped out some of the larger sizes, coupled with panic buying prompted by COVID-19 that had both commodities quickly disappearing from supermarket shelves, said Tony Garin, vice president of sales for Colo-Pac Produce, Denver.

Pinto beans were another high-demand item.

Garin expected lower-than–usual volume on local potatoes until a new crop comes on after late September — a little earlier for onions.

Colo-Pac will have gala and Honeycrisp apples from September through early November from Colorado’s Western Slope, and Colorado pears should come on in late summer.

Colo-Pac is pushing apple and pear sales for schools, he said.

A cold snap in April put a damper on the Western Slope stone fruit deal, he said.

It was too soon to know the extent of the damage, but Garin said one grower reported that early varieties of cherries and peaches will be “really light.”

However, more fruit should be available when later varieties come on as the season progresses.

Other local items include asparagus, which started in mid-April, and leafy greens, which should be ready to harvest in mid-June.

For the organic section, Colo-Pac ships a fair amount of tomatoes, onions and potatoes and locally grown yellow squash, lettuces, greens, cherries and a few peaches.

Organic demand is holding steady, Garin said.

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Coosemans-Denver Inc., a specialty produce supplier, offers hundreds of products, said Garrick Macek, vice president of operations.

Ginger, shallots and fresh culinary herbs are among the most requested.

Although the company tries to source locally when possible, that can be a challenge for a specialty supplier.

“A good portion of the products we offer and source come from outside of Colorado and even the U.S.,” he said.

Coosemans offers a selection of organic items, including herbs, radicchio and bok choy, but organic specialty items are not as readily available as conventional ones, Macek said.

On the foodservice side, popular items include baby peeled carrots, baby heirloom tomatoes, ginger, root vegetables, edible flowers, gourmet mushrooms, rainbow carrots, white asparagus, fingerling potatoes and lots of herbs.

But, as with most produce suppliers, Coosemans’ foodservice business has suffered repercussions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Foodservice sales are down 90% at Coosemans with “very little starting to come back,” Macek said.

It’s unlikely that sales at Coosemans will match last year’s, he said.

“I believe we have lost enough business to make it hard to catch up to last year, but it could happen if the economy opens up again soon,” Macek said.

Colorado consumers look forward to local produce, said Brad Jester, co-owner of 5280 Produce in Denver.

Palisade peaches, grown near the Utah border; Olathe corn and Rocky Ford watermelon and cantaloupe are just a few of the local favorites, he said.

Big Sky Trading LLC serves mostly food manufacturers and retailers, said J.T. Pickett, general operations manager and organic produce buyer.

Vegetables account for the majority of the firm’s business, but the fruit side is growing as well, he said.

“It’s a pretty even spread,” he said.

Greens, lettuces and spinach are top-selling vegetables.

The company handles all berry varieties and runs trucks to Washington for apples and pears, Idaho for potatoes and California and Texas for grapefruit, lemons, limes and oranges.

“We can get pretty much everything,” Pickett said.

Local summertime items include Palisade peaches, Rocky Ford cantaloupe and carrots from Greeley.

“We try to incorporate (local produce) as much as possible,” he said.

Buying locally holds down freight costs for customers, he added.

Big Sky Trading is a member of the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Colorado Proud program that promotes locally grown produce.

“We do everything we can to sell and encourage people to buy Colorado produce,” Pickett said. 

 
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