Zucchini squash is among the items Loxahatchee, Fl.-based J&J Family of Farms is growing this fall at its Fort Pierce location. ( Photo courtesy J&J Family of Farms )

Some vegetable crops were expected to come on slightly earlier than usual because of warm weather during the summer and early autumn, but most Florida growers said they expected a typical crop this fall with good quality and sizing.

Hugh H. Branch Inc., South Bay, Fla., which produces sweet corn, lettuce and green beans, started planting in early September, said owner Brett Bergmann.

He expected to start harvesting by mid-November.

Quality looks “really nice,” he said in mid-October, and sizing looked good, too.

Although the weather was hot, he said central and southern Florida have not had to face tropical storms or hurricanes this season.

The company may have lost some Georgia sweet corn to Hurricane Michael, but Bergmann said he wasn’t sure what effect, if any, that would have on Florida markets.

Pioneer Growers Co-op, Belle Glade, Fla., likely will start its corn, radishes, beans and cabbage a couple of weeks earlier than the usual mid-November start date, said Jon Browder, sales manager.

After several years of wetter-than-normal fall periods, this season was unusually dry, he said, which should be good for the crops.

“We should have a very good fall season,” Browder said.

C&D Fruit & Vegetable Co. Inc., Bradenton, Fla., should start harvesting squash the first week of November, as usual, said Steve O’Brien, vice president.

The company grows green, yellow, acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash.

O’Brien said he expects good quality and typical sizing for this year’s squash.

Although Cheriton, Va.-based Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc. lost much of its crop in North Carolina and Georgia to hurricanes Florence and Michael, president Calvert Cullen was optimistic about the Florida deal.

“As of right now, we don’t have any weather issues in Florida,” he said in mid-October.

The company should start harvesting cucumbers, squash, bell peppers and beans by the end of November and cabbage by late December, he said.

Although there usually is some overlap between the end of the harvest in Georgia and the start of the Florida harvest, he said Florida would not be ready in time to fill any gaps created by shortfalls in Georgia resulting from the hurricane.

The company will source out of Florida until April, then switch back to Georgia, North Carolina and Michigan to ensure year-round availability.

He was hopeful for continued good weather in Florida.

Utopia Packing LLC, a division of Utopia Farms, Myakka City, Fla., started its cucumber and bell pepper programs in October, as usual, said sales manager Jim Monteith.

Quality and color on cucumbers looked good, he said, though he was hoping for a little extra length on the cucumbers.

He said he is hopeful that they will size up as the season progresses.

The bell peppers “look real nice,” he said a few days before the start of the harvest.

The company’s grower said this year’s crop is one of the best fall crops he has ever grown, Monteith said.

“As long as Mother Nature leaves us alone, we’ll be fine.”

Reduction of yields in Georgia on products like bell peppers could benefit southern Florida, he said.

“That could help the markets as we go along,” Monteith said.

However, the region’s construction boom might have an impact on worker availability in the packinghouse and in the fields, he said.

“Labor is on the tight side,” Monteith said, as workers leave the farm and seek employment in construction, where they typically are more highly compensated.

 
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