Shannon Kyle of Torrey Farms: How NY growers, packers deal with unpredictable market
Shannon Kyle of Torrey Farms and Amy Sowder of The Packer discuss how New York growers and marketers are dealing with the unpredictable market. ( Amy Sowder )

For New York growers and shippers, erratic demand during this uncertain market is making planning ahead almost impossible, so flexibility is more important than ever, said Shannon Kyle, who handles sales and marketing at Torrey Farms, Elba, N.Y.

“Flexibility on the farm level has been key to serving our customers on time for them, with a lot less notice. Nobody wants extra inventory,” Kyle said.

Orders are being placed later in the day, so packing lines are starting later.

Even customers who sold out of a particular item the night before, or didn’t have enough, aren’t buying more or too much more the next day because of the fear of too much surplus, she said.

Growers don’t want a repeat of the tragic dumping that happened in March and early April when COVID-19 first struck the U.S., and foodservice business “hit a wall,” Kyle said.

“You’re definitely happy to have the orders, but it’s been harder to plan ahead,” she said.

By July, Torrey Farms had depleted its hardy storage crops and the summer fresh produce deal is underway. The farm is shipping green cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash and green beans.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is having a positive ripple effect for New York farmers, she said. It’s reducing competition from importers and causing higher demand for some commodities than in previous years, such as cabbage.

Watch the video to learn more about how the market, the weather and the pandemic are affecting growers, shippers, wholesalers and marketers in New York, plus the strategies that are helping.

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