For anyone who makes a living growing fruits and vegetables, the whims of
Mother Nature are an all-too-familiar part of the deal.
Up and down the East Coast, growers have seen the timing of their deals
thrown off this spring, with Florida and Georgia trying to recover from record
freezes and states in the mid-Atlantic region having endured drenching rains
that pushed back planting schedules.
In New Jersey, growers experienced their share of trepidation as record
rainfall in late March that gave way to record-high temperatures the first
week of April, raising speculation that the start of the spring vegetable deal
would be delayed by as much as two weeks. With the Southern deals coming
on later than normal, the main concern was that production would overlap on
certain items and that markets would suffer as a result.
Thankfully, that has not come to pass, according to vegetable growers in the
"Everything is on track," Skip Consalo, president of The Fresh Wave in
Vineland, NJ, told The Produce News May 26. "Greens started April 20, and we
had a full line by May 10. The weather has been perfect, and as a result, we
have had almost no quality issues. When you have the cool nights and days
that are not burning hot, you get great product."
Mr. Consalo said that early concerns about overlapping production have also
proved to be a non-issue so far this season. "As of now, the markets have
been really good," he said. "Squash is now $12 a box, and it could be $4 or
$5 if there was a lot on the market."
Bill Nardelli, president of Nardelli Bros. in Cedarville, NJ, characterized 2010
as a "very different season," but concurred with Mr. Consalo about production
being on track and markets being strong.
"On some commodities, we were a little early, and on some we were a little
late, but the quality has been excellent and the markets have been favorable,"
he said. "The push for local product is moving things along, and we are
getting good patronization from the chains."
"Everything straightened out nicely," Michael D'Ottavio, president of M.
D'Ottavio Produce Inc. in Vineland, said May 26. "Once the weather warmed
up, things under row cover and plastic really started to pop. The wet veg
looks really nice, and we had some hot markets early on with red leaf and
green leaf lettuce."
Mr. D'Ottavio added that he was looking at an early start to some of the dry
items like squash, cucumbers and pickles.
Bob Donio, vice president of Frank Donio Inc. in Hammonton, NJ, said, "It
looks like we're pretty much on target. The weather dried up in April and May,
and all the vegetable crops look very good, and the quality is nice."
Mr. Donio said that with Zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers and green beans
soon to start in earnest, there could be some overlap with Southern deals still
"But New Jersey has an advantage on freight rates," he said. "Loads out of the
South are about 50 percent higher than last year."
Mr. D'Ottavio agreed, saying that in addition to the favorable freight rates,
New Jersey is "in a great spot. We offer 85 items and can consolidate a load
and offer overnight delivery to the major markets like New York, Philadelphia,
Boston, Baltimore and Washington, DC. I think that is the major advantage we
offer in New Jersey."
For Mr. Nardelli, whose company for decades has operated a fleet of
refrigerated trucks to deliver product up and down the East Coast, New
Jersey's location has long been a selling point for his customers.
"I'm getting more and more feedback about New Jersey being one of the areas
where you can consolidate loads and get them to the major market
overnight," he said. "We are able to bring loads from the South, cross-dock
and consolidate them for the chains so they don't have to deal with that."
Mr. Consalo said that he has also seen a bump in business as a result of
higher freight rates out of the South. "With rates being 50 percent higher
[than last season] out of the South, we're seeing more customers pulling from
And while all the veteran growers know that Mother Nature could again assert
her superiority, they are content with enjoying a good start to the spring deal.
"We're happy with the season so far and hopeful that it continues all
summer," said Mr. Consalo.
(For more on the New Jersey spring produce deal, see the May 31, 2010, issue
of The Produce News.)