your-news image

New England gets more than its share of Blizzard 2015

With winds at more than 70 miles per hour, the Blizzard of 2015 slammed New England with a major punch on Monday and into Tuesday.

The storm was as ruthless to New England as it was kind to New York City and regions farther south, which only got a light dusting of snow as it passed through on Monday.

By Tuesday Massachusetts was buried in snow, with predictions of more snow into Wednesday morning.FullSizeRenderWhile the Blizzard of 2015 failed to live up to its name in some regions, New England was slammed with snow, which is piled high in this parking lot outside the Boston Market Terminal. (Photo courtesy of Tommy Piazza)

Susan Tavilla oversees California produce for family-owned-and-operated Tavilla Co. Inc., located at the New England Produce Center in Chelsea, MA. She said that on Sunday the center’s board of directors voted to close Monday night, which constituted Tuesday's business.

“With that in mind, many customers bumped up their orders for Monday,” said Tavilla. “On Tuesday, Market basket, a large Northeast retail chain, closed for business. Most other businesses also closed.”

Governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker called for a state of emergency and closed roads to non-essential persons as of Monday at midnight. The ban was in effect for 24-hours.

“Although we are at work tonight (Tuesday for Wednesday business), not all trucks made it in as so many roads are closed in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts,” said Tavilla. “Things are slow because many businesses were closed and people were not allowed to drive.”

She added that she feels that business will be strong on Thursday as people are back in their vehicles, businesses are open and everyone tries to get back to a normal routine.

“I think closing the market Monday night was the right thing to do,” added Tavilla. “No trucks would have arrived due to the ban, and it was important to get the NEPC plowed out properly.”

Tommy Piazza, clerk of corporation for Community-Suffolk Inc. at the adjacent Boston Market Terminal, told The Produce News, “We got hammered. It was insane. The top and bottom of the French doors in my bedroom on Cape Ann buckled from the wind and snow was coming inside.”

The company waited until noon on Monday, when the governor issued the state of emergency, to decide to close.

“Orders were still coming in as late as noon, and we were holding people in our warehouse to make deliveries,” Piazza said. “We worked until late, and we moved a lot of product.”

When Piazza drove to work this morning only plows and police cars were on the streets, and the snow was still falling.

“Today will be an early one,” he noted. “We missed one full day, and today we’re seeing only about 20 percent of our customers. That’s another hit. Tomorrow should be a jam-up day. But does it average out? You never really make up for a lost day, so yeah, there’s a financial hit.

“Produce people are a special breed,” he continued. “We have never closed before. Everyone in the market is here working today.”

He added that the maintenance crew at Boston Market Terminal did an outstanding job at getting the market cleaned up.

“They worked for two straight days, and the market was immaculate when we got in this morning,” said Piazza. “They’re about to fall over from exhaustion, but the market is as clean as a whistle.”

“The storm was predicted for eastern Massachusetts starting Saturday, so we had plenty of warning,” said Peter John Condakes, president of Peter Condakes Co. Inc., located at the New England Produce Center. “By Monday the forecast was for 20 to 30 inches of snow. The center’s board of directors decided to close the market for Tuesday, which is the first time the market had ever been officially closed for a storm.”

He added that the decision to close the market was rendered moot by the decision of the governors of Connecticut and Massachusetts to close all roads, except for emergency vehicles.

“The market is open today with many employees and customers unable to come in because they are still trying to shovel out,” said Condakes. “On Monday, in anticipation of the storm, we were very busy. Today, business is rather slow, which is to be expected.”

Arizona Leafy Greens adds to food-safety training kit

The Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Training Kit has a new component specifically designed for supervisory roles and personnel who conduct daily field assessments. Module 4: Pre-Harvest & Daily Harvest Environmental Assessments addresses the industry’s need to train those responsible for monitoring potential environmental contaminants.

“The development of this particular module was probably the most complex of all of our efforts,” Vicki-Lynne Scott, technical subcommittee chairperson and board member of the Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee, said in a press release. “It’s highly technical and covers a lot of ‘what-ifs’ as well as provides templates to encourage uniformity in monitoring.”

To beta-test the module, the Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee engaged agriculture students from Arizona Western College in Yuma, AZ. The students sat through training sessions and offered feedback that was incorporated in the final product.

“We’re fortunate to have this group as a resource, in our own backyard, and their insights were invaluable in the development of the final product,” Scott said.

More than 150 people have been trained in the new module so far, in bilingual training sessions that took place in late 2014 in both Phoenix and Yuma. The additional module is free to members of Arizona Leafy Greens Food Safety Committee and is available for purchase in either English or Spanish.

The Food Safety Training Kit is a comprehensive training tool that addresses safe food handling practices in the field. The bilingual program has been widely used by the leafy greens industry and serves as a model for creating uniform standards and practices. Since its inception, the organization has enhanced the program with new training tools such as workplace posters, tailgate flip charts and most recently a video series that was named a Best New Food Safety Solution finalist at United Fresh. The program was designed to ensure compliance with federal regulations for food safety, including anticipated Food Safety Modernization Act standards.

The Arizona Leafy Greens is a consortium of shippers of Arizona leafy greens produce that have put in place protective controls to ensure the integrity of leafy greens products grown and shipped from Arizona. Arizona's Leafy Greens industry provides 75 percent of the leafy greens produce consumed in the United States and Canada for the months of November through March. The $1 billion industry employs approximately 20,000 workers.

‘Blizzard of 2015’ doesn’t live up to name in NYC, leaving produce industry mostly grateful

What was predicted by major news media to be the “Blizzard of 2015” on Monday, Jan. 26, trickled down to a brief dusting of snow across most of the Northeast. This left produce professionals grateful, but also in question of decisions made by politicians in preparation for what they believed would be a dangerous storm.

Headlines throughout the day on Monday were enough to put a scare into anyone: “Northeast U.S. braves 'crippling' blizzard, transit systems shut," “Schools closed, flights cancelled [more than 7,500] as blizzard hits,” “Non-essential drivers off the city's roads after 11 p.m. Monday [or risk a $300 fine],” and “New Hampshire governor declares state of emergency and closes government on Tuesday.”

Millions of people emptied store shelves prepared to hunker down in their homes. Eight states were under emergency declarations by late Monday. According to one NBC news report, the Northeast corridor came to an eerie standstill.

But news on Tuesday morning took a turn with headlines like “NYC travel ban lifted, mass transit back later this morning.”

Tuesday morning was mostly about getting back to normal in the produce industry.

“Our trucks were loaded and ready to go last night,” Michael Muzyk, president of Baldor Specialty Foods in the Bronx, NY, told The Produce News. “We had to make a decision: Should we load trains as a backup or wait it out? But our customers include hospitals, nursing homes and even hotels that are responsible for feeding people, and they don’t shut down.”

Baldor managed to pull together a skeleton crew to drive the trucks, and Muzyk made the decision.

“I told them that if they got stopped by the police for breaking the law during the ban, they were to tell them the truth--they were getting food to these facilities that needed it,” he said.

“We’re all happy that the storm wasn’t worse and that no one was harmed,” he continued. “But this has nothing to do with snow—it has to do with the actions taken by city and state officials.”

He added that there is a huge financial loss for companies like Baldor due to this level of shutdown, and he feels it leaves room for the actions to be examined for future weather emergencies.

“It was only a passing storm for us,” said Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association in Fishers, NY. “Some shippers will have to delay deliveries, but they will make them up immediately once the storm passes. New England will be down the longest. We hope all remain safe and that life and property are not harmed.”

In South Jersey, the storm had even less affect. On Tuesday morning Amy Erianne, vice president of business development for Safeway Group in Vineland, NJ, said, “We really did not get much snow at all, and it was much milder than forecasted. We are operating as usual and there were no issues, thankfully.”

Sky Valley heirloom Navel oranges now shipping

The second week of January marked the beginning of the Sky Valley heirloom Navel orange program, shipping exclusively from Cecelia Packing Corp. of Orange Cove, CA, and packed in the "Sky Valley" label.skyval

Just as terroir — the unique set of environmental characteristics including climate and soil — is important in the production of a fine single vineyard wine, Sky Valley’s geographic location is instrumental in producing this fruit.

“The location is the fundamental difference between the fruit from Sky Valley and anything else,” Randy Jacobson, Cecelia's sales manager, said in a press release. “You can measure Brix and you can measure the age of the trees, but the unique flavor of Sky Valley is as much due to its location as it is to the other factors. There is no definitive measure of flavor; the proof is in the taste.”

Sky Valley heirloom Navel oranges were planted over 75 years ago in the shadow of Smith Mountain near Orange Cove, using old line Washington Navel bud wood on sour orange root stock. Fruit coming from this single location, which encompasses 280 acres, makes for a consistent and extraordinary taste, the company said. An heirloom Navel orange harvested from Sky Valley today will have the same rich flavor profile as one picked next week or two months from now.

Only fruit from the Sky Valley Ranch is sold under the "Sky Valley" label. The oranges are from one ranch, in one location, in a single micro-climate, which ensures consistency throughout the season instead of solely relying on Brix readings or the age of the tree. When the harvest on the Sky Valley ranch is done, the season ends for Sky Valley heirloom Navels.

Sun World names new CEO

Merrill N. Dibble has been appointed president and chief executive officer of Sun World International LLC. Dibble succeeds David Dever and takes the helm as the company embarks on a plan to strengthen its position as a premier grape breeder, producer, marketer and licensor.

Dibble comes to Sun World from AgReserves Inc., where he served as its Bakersfield, CA-based vice president of California operations for the company’s almond, walnut, pistachio and prune business units.

The leadership transition is part of a larger strategy to optimize Sun World’s product portfolio, expand its international trading platform and bolster its variety development and licensing business. With a continued commitment to grape and stone fruit variety development and breeding, as well as table grape production, sales and marketing, the company also announced the following strategic focuses: portfolio optimization, variety development and licensing growth. 

In order to better meet customer demand for a consistent supply of its unique grape varieties, Sun World is developing an aggressive California grape-planting program, with new vineyards to supplement its existing owned and leased properties in California’s Coachella and San Joaquin Valleys.

The company plans to divest its pepper and strawberry farming, and citrus packing and marketing interests. In conjunction with Woodspur, an affiliated date company owned by Renewable Resources Group, Sun World’s Coachella Valley facility will be re‐purposed for packing and handling fresh dates. The company’s citrus activities will be phased out. All Coachella-area farming activities will be centered on its grape acreage, which is slated for considerable growth in the coming years.

With one of the world’s leading grape and stone fruit variety-development programs, Sun World will continue to bring differentiated varieties with improved flavor, size, color and texture to the marketplace.

The company is committed to expanding its already significant varietal presence with continued licensed production throughout Europe, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Israel, South America and North America to support global demand.