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HARTFORD, CT — Two major building projects — one that looks to begin as early as this fall, the other with a less definite time frame — are on track at the Connecticut Regional Produce Market, according to the state official who is overseeing both developments.

The first project, scheduled to begin this November, is a new tomato facility for M&M Produce Inc., one of the wholesale companies on the market. The entire site for the new tomato facility as well as for possible additional construction by M&M is about one-and-a-half acres, according to Robert Pellegrino, executive director of what is commonly called the Hartford market.

The other project is a new farmers market. Mr. Pellegrino expected to have more information available this September, but the area under consideration is about five to seven acres, compared to two acres used by the current farmers market. The new farmers market could also be partly open-air and partly enclosed, making it very consumer-friendly. A new traffic pattern to allow easier access into and out of the farmers market portion of the Hartford market is also under consideration.

The restaurant at the market, now called Lovejoy's, "has been re-done inside and out, and the new owners are very professional," Mr. Pellegrino told The Produce News in mid-July. “It’s just a whole new ballgame there.”

As part of the ongoing maintenance to keep the market running smoothly and efficiently, “We did some reconstruction of all new lighting,” he noted. “We put all new wiring underground and fixed all the lights. We also fixed the lighting that was in the farmers market section.”

With the warm weather in the spring and early summer pushing the state’s produce crops this year, all of those upgrades have been put to good use earlier than usual for the market’s local deal.

“Things were two to three weeks early in Connecticut,” Mr. Pellegrino, who also serves as marketing director of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, said July 15. “Right now the corn is really coming in strong. There’s a lot of corn right now.” Also, “Our strawberry crop was very good this year. The blueberries and raspberries are in now. Our peach crop is just coming on now. We have farmers that are picking peaches right now. We have some native apricots in.” Most of the state’s peaches go to farmstands and farmers markets within the state, he noted.

“Of course in our vegetable line, the peppers, the squash, the radishes, the lettuce — that’s all being produced right now. We expect next week or the week after, our field-crop tomatoes will be starting.” Looking farther, “The apple crop looks very good this year, and the pear crop looks good.”

Asked to characterize the season as of mid-July, Mr. Pellegrino replied, “It’s doing very well so far. We’ve gotten very few complaints about the crops and the dryness so far because most of the farmers that are in need of water have been irrigating.”

He added, “There have been no weather catastrophes this year. There’s been very minor hail damage to orchards, nothing to speak of,” unlike last year, “so the apple crop should be good.”

With the weather throughout the Northeast pushing crops to harvest sooner than normal, “I think we’ll probably see a glut of corn here in Connecticut because of such warm weather,” he said. “Our corn started the week of July 4, and after that it really started coming in. I noticed on the market more and more corn being delivered, so I could say that corn is just about in its full swing right now.”

He said in conclusion, “The quality of most crops is very good. There’s been no tomato blight this year like there was last year. We have to keep our fingers crossed.”

(For more on Connecticut, see the Aug. 2, 2010, issue of The Produce News.)