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Experience pays off for Nardelli Brothers during harsh weather conditions

Nardelli Brothers Inc. in Cedarville, NJ, was spared serious damage by Hurricane Irene in late August.

“The good Lord has been good to us,” said Bill Nardelli, president of Nardelli Brothers. “We got some rain and 40- to 60-mile-per-hour winds, but the rain and wind didn’t coordinate so well as to cause a lot of damage. There will be a little loss on squashes and cucumbers, but our early assessments were pretty reassuring.

After farming for over 100 years, the company knows which areas to plant in during certain times of the year.

“During high-risk storm seasons, crops like squashes, cucumbers and even hard squash can be easily damaged by wind and rain, so we plant in higher fields,” said Mr. Nardelli. “We had another storm event a couple of years ago, and our farming practices helped to protect us then as well.”

Every season has its typical weather patterns, and Mr. Nardelli said that planting programs are unique to each. In the spring, growers have to be cognizant of early frosts and snow, drainage from snowmelt and other issues.

“Sometimes you’re forced to plant in a field even when there are risks,” said Mr. Nardelli. “In the summer months, you have the longest days for sunlight and that causes extended ground warmth. It can be dry and hot, and we sometimes go for long stretches in July and August without rain, so we want to plant in areas where we can irrigate.”

In the fall, Nardelli Brothers wants to get to areas that will dry out quickly from ground swells that are caused by events like hurricanes. Using these varied techniques throughout the year helps the company to protect its crops from damage.

Nardelli Brothers started its New Jersey-grown fall leafy-green program in mid-September. Mr. Nardelli said that these crops were also spared damage from the storm, adding that they are powered by a lot of water.

“The advantage most growers have is planting on bedded ground,” he explained. “That provides an elevation that helps to protect the plants. This is a big advantage to leaf growers.

“It’s a puzzle that you can never completely figure out,” he added. “What worked last year may have to be at least moderately changed this year.”

Mr. Nardelli is joined in operating the company by his two sons, Bill Jr. and Jim, as well as his wife, Sandra, all of whom he said are his inspiration.

Nardelli Brothers grows a full line of fresh produce, including wet crops such as parsley, celery, cilantro, lettuces and other leafy greens, which are grown in the fall and kick off the New Jersey growing season in the spring. By late May, it starts with green and yellow squash, peppers, eggplant and other dry items. Nardelli’s line also includes blueberries, peaches, nectarines, corn, sweet potatoes, yams, cabbage and strawberries. Its farms in Cedarville and Vineland, NJ, produce over 80 items, and it brings product in from partner farms in other states during the off season.

The company sells to retailers, foodservice operators, food processors and wholesalers, and it ships east of the Mississippi River as well as to eastern Canada.

Besides its primary Cedarville farm, Nardelli Brothers has small farms in the region and it works with other local growers who are in a five- to 10-mile radius.

Its Vineland facility is used for packing and marketing its own and other growers’ produce. The facility was recently updated with a completely cooled enclosure.

“Our Cedarville cooperative has five members, and one of them is producing organic product,” said Mr. Nardelli. “We have many options available to us today, and that enables us to grow and explore new pathways. And we continually strive to find ways to better service our customers.”

Mr. Nardelli’s father, James Nardelli, started the company’s trucking division in the early 1940s. Mr. Nardelli said that trucking is now a necessity that enables companies like his to intermingle with other areas of the country.

“We now offer from 60 to 80 commodities year round,” he said. “We bring bulk product in and pack it for major retailers and wholesalers according to their needs. This also enables us to provide consistency, which ensures that the same great product is provided year round and on the delivery schedule that chain stores today require.”

He added that by having less spearhead, the company’s greens and field crops are consistently high quality throughout the year, and it keeps his workforce busy all year.

“We are looking to expand into fruits throughout the coming winter,” Mr. Nardelli said. “We used to handle a lot of peaches and blueberries, but they haven’t been major programs for us in the past. We’ll be working on our fruit program and we’ll be making announcements in the future.”