Frank Dandrea, president of Dandrea Produce Inc. in Vineland, NJ, told The Produce News that leafy greens started for the company in early May.
“We’re moving the full line now,” he said May 11, including spinach and winter parsleys, asparagus and all leafy greens.
Dandrea Produce participates in locally grown initiatives in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia.
“There is a clear delineation of identity in these states for their locally grown programs,” said Mr. Dandrea. “They are all strong programs, and we provide a host of items so that our customers can help promote their state’s locally grown initiatives. The seasons fall in such a way that the programs are kicked off one right after another, which makes for a strong season in this region of the country.”
Dandrea Produce has established farming operations in each of those areas to satisfy the demand for local produce. Locally grown means that distribution is closer to the harvest, and that translates into fresher produce which has a higher nutritional value when it reaches grocers’ shelves.
“It also helps to keep fuel costs down, which is good for the environment,” Mr. Dandrea added. “This is in keeping with our company’s green initiatives. And it supports the local community and keeps people employed.”
The company is fully certified, and it is initiating its GS1 Conformance & Certification program on June 20, which will begin with its navel and clementine volume from South Africa.
“We’ll start sliding out of New Jersey greens and begin our summer crop programs around June 1 or a little earlier,” said Mr. Dandrea. “We’ll start with green and yellow squashes. Blueberries will start on June 10 or even a bit earlier. The crop looks really good this year. We’ll then be moving into other products, like cucumbers, sweet corn, tomatoes, green beans, specialty peppers. Peaches will begin in July.”
He added that late-season New Jersey peaches are a good opportunity for customers to extend their locally grown programs.
Dandrea Produce’s success is based on the programs it provides to its customers, with finite dates of inceptions and ends.
“The earlier and longer you can run a season, the more the costs are distributed over a greater period,” Mr. Dandrea explained. “As this relates to local produce, this means you can offer consumers local products over a longer period of time. Late-season peaches, as an example, are a good opportunity for customers because they can keep their local programs alive longer.”
Dandrea Produce is also working toward increasing its earlier supplies. It is using plastics and covers, and the right seed varieties contribute a lot to the success of earlier products.
“We use hoops for tomatoes, which creates a little bit of a greenhouse effect,” said Mr. Dandrea. “They also help protect the plants from any drops in temperature.”
Dandrea Produce is expanding its office space to close to 5,000 square feet to accommodate its growing staff. Mr. Dandrea said that the company is up by about 20 percent in staff members, and he anticipates that it will continue to increase.
“It’s all about the environment and good health today,” he said. “And we are promoting this to our staff. We [are putting in] a new, nearly commercial-style gymnasium with all the latest equipment in our facility. And we have hired a chef, Kenny Gilford, to come in and cook one meal a day for our internal staff of about 30 people. We welcome everyone to join our family in improving and maintaining good health by using the gym and participating in the meals — which will have our produce incorporated into them.”
The company also has increased its value-added bagging options by adding packinglines that will be used especially for citrus.
“We also put in lines for peppers, squashes, cucumbers and eggplant,” said Mr. Dandrea. “Packing here in our climate-controlled facility centralizes packing of our farms’ or satellite farms’ produce. Product is harvested in RTC containers. It comes into our facility, is cooled, packed and put into the cooler. We do everything here in order to control and insure quality. We’ve been adding lines continually to keep all control under our own roof.”
Dandrea Produce is also at the forefront in its food-safety initiatives with Primus certification and Good Agriculture Practices certifications.
“We continue to have good customer and supply bases, and we’re consistent in quality and volumes,” concluded Mr. Dandrea. “We’re all in the same canoe, and we need to row together so everyone has their margin and so that our relationships with growing and retail partners stay strong and business is fair for everyone.”