“Despite the bad weather affecting many Midwest and Eastern states this year, we are having a normal season,” said Richard Papen, sales manager and member of the family owning Papen Farms Inc. in Dover, DE. “We’ve been spared those terrible tornados that have affected so many people. Our hearts go out to them. Other than it being a little dry, it’s a normal growing season for us.”
The company has been in business for 70 years, and Mr. Papen represents the second generation of Papen family members to operate the business. His and his cousins’ sons, and their sons, represent the third and fourth generations to work in the business.
“There will be a fifth generation coming on,” he said. “I have great grandchildren who are four and five years old. My son and grandsons work in the business, along with cousins and their children. In all, there are about 10 family members involved in the operation.”
The “operation” is a 2,000-acre farm in Dover on the Eastern Shore, where the Papen family members produce sweet corn, cabbage and green beans for the fresh market.
Papen Farms starts harvesting sweet corn about July 10, Mr. Papen said that it runs continually through Sept. 15. “Cabbage starts on June 10 and runs through July 20. Then we start with it again in September with the second run, which goes through October. Green beans start around June 20. The crop runs through the first of August, and then, like cabbage, there is a pause in production until the fall crop, which runs from September through October.”
The company sells its produce under the “Papen Farms” label. Its customers are wholesalers, brokers and retailers, including major chainstores.
“We ship a lot of product to Florida, especially in August, when it’s very hot there and nothing is being produced,” said Mr. Papen. “Alternatively, early in the year, we ship a lot of product to the northeast, including into New England, when growers there are not in production. We also ship as far west as the Mississippi River. Wherever there is demand, we’ll ship to that area, but most of that demand is based on seasonal growing conditions up and down the East Coast.”
Shipping farther west presents added challenges for companies like Papen Farms because of the high fuel prices today. Mr. Papen said that fuel affects virtually everything in a farmer’s operation, and that all farmers, regardless of what they are producing, are feeling the weight of the cost of fuel today.
Papen Farms recently completed upgrading its packinghouse and storage rooms.
“We continue to focus on our food-safety program,” said Mr. Papen. “We have been third-party audited, and so we are in full compliance with all the required certifications, including traceability.”