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Jay Krichmar happy to see farmers getting good prices for crops

VINELAND, NJ — The produce area in southern New Jersey is no different than other produce areas throughout the United States in regard to the principle that supply and demand generally equals price. As Jay Krichmar, president of Krichmar Produce Co., put it, “This area’s [pricing] is generated from supply and demand — just like everywhere else.”

In spring 2011, that meant good quality vegetables and high prices, and Mr. Krichmar was happy to see farmers — who despite their long hours and hard work often end up settling for low prices in many years — finally seeing some good numbers.

“Prices have been very, very high, and growers are all smiling,” Mr. Krichmar told The Produce News May 10, citing supply and demand as well as the general trucking shortage as the two main reasons for those high prices. “That’s what made this market so lucrative. Growers need it. Their expenses, like fuel, fertilizer and labor, are all going up.”

One downside to the high prices: “It’s very hard to go out two weeks ahead and give prices to the major chains,” he said.

The 2011 Jersey spring vegetable deal started this year pretty much on time, according to Mr. Krichmar. Items as of mid-May included “a lot of leafy greens, some leeks,” and basil will start “in a couple of weeks.” He added, “New parsley’s starting, some cabbage is starting, and some will start in a few weeks.”

With generally good growing weather, “Quality has been excellent,” he added. “Weather’s been cooperative. All crops are right on target to be harvested when they should be.”

And with the high prices, “Growers are in and out of fields,” he noted. “If the market’s good, they’ll pick until they can can’t see. And I don’t blame them.”

Mr. Krichmar, 50, started his company in southern New Jersey 16 years ago. Most business is done with wholesalers up and down the Eastern Seaboard, primarily in Boston, New York and Miami, with chainstores and purveyors comprising the balance.

Attracting young people to produce or to agriculture in general historically has been a challenge, but Mr. Krichmar has had success with two young men. Mr. Krichmar said that his son Troy, 26, “will be more hands-on” beginning this season. “He will be more involved in the purchasing area.” And Mr. Krichmar’s nephew Kenny, 30, “will be more involved in sales.”

The company plans to install new racks this fall, and it also will be upgrading the cooler with more efficient units.

Mr. Krichmar was coming off a “very steady” Chilean deal when he spoke to The Produce News, but “now our attention is on the Jersey deal.” The company handles product from many sources, but product from its home state has special significance.

“It’s still exciting to get the Jersey deal going,” Mr. Krichmar declared. “That’s when I get my second wind.”