Commerce City, CO — For decades Ringer & Son Brokerage has provided fresh fruit and vegetables from other growing areas to buyers in the Rocky Mountain region and — during Colorado’s growing season — moved an assortment of produce from this state to retailers in other areas as well.
That service continues, although with consolidation on both the grower and buyer end of the equation, the longstanding broker now works more with smaller distributors than with big chains, according to Ringer President Joshua Johnson.
Mr. Johnson said his business with smaller “mom and pop” retailers and local jobbers continues to grow as contracts between growers and chains become more common.
“We’re picking up more of the niche customers,” he said, adding that product brought in from the West, Northwest and Southwest is distributed regionally. Colorado product is sold “everywhere,” he added.
Mr. Johnson was looking ahead to Ringer’s exclusive corn sales for Mountain Fresh LLC, a Western Slope grower that starts shipping the famed Olathe-area sweet corn in July. That specialty item does see “good pulls from bigger chains,” he said, noting that the state’s water shortage will affect acreage this season. Last year grower Mike Ahlberg and his sons, Zach and Scott, had 650 acres of mostly yellow and bi-colored.
In advance of her sales of Colorado cherries, peaches and apples as well as San Luis Valley potatoes later in the season, sales agent Deb Pate was handling Texas valley product and said limes had been selling especially well.
Dayn Borgmann, who primarily works the California desk, said desert product had been a rough deal, but mixed veg from the coast was moving well.
Mr. Borgmann addressed compliance to an increasing list of food-safety requirements, noting that different protocols makes it difficult for grower-shippers to stay current.
“Global GAP is a moving target,” he said. “And everyone is trying to hit that target.”
Nogales product and some Florida tomatoes are handled by Gene Schneider, who also brokers Colorado cantaloupe and honeydew during season. Mr. Schneider said, “The business climate right now is horrible. Every time you turn around, some politician is regulating more things for you.”
The longtime Rocky Ford melon deal normally commences around Aug. 1, and Mr. Schneider said Hirakata Farms in the lower Arkansas Valley is expanding its honeydew production this year.
“We’re also looking at varietals for production in the future,” Mr. Schneider said.
All of Colorado is experiencing the effects of drought, and Mr. Schneider summed up overall expectations when he said, “It will be an interesting year again this year.”