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Vince Consalo: strong summer should lead right into strong fall

VINELAND, NJ — “It’s been a pretty good summer so far. August seems to be a tad slower, but otherwise it’s been a pretty good summer. The whole line moved pretty well.”

Vince Consalo, president of Wm. Consalo & Sons Farms Inc., here, made that assessment of the 2011 New Jersey produce deal Aug. 24, as he prepared for the fall deal — the third and last portion of the long New Jersey produce season.

“Quality was decent — pretty good for the weather we had,” he said, referring to the persistent rains and some extreme heat that characterized the season to date. “We actually weathered the [elements] pretty well.”

Partly as a result of the challenging weather, prices throughout the season “have been on the strong side,” which is one reason why Mr. Consalo was anticipating a good fall deal as well. There has been “heavy planting for the fall on all fall crops,” he said, listing some of the more important items: “your Romaine, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, cabbage, fennel; you’ll have broccoli, all your cabbages — red, green Savoy — all your greens, all the herbs.”

He was also expecting “a large selection” of what the trade often terms the Halloween items: pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks and Indian corn.

“Movement was good” for the summer items, “so planting [for fall] should be heavier, too,” he said, adding that it should be “better than last year.”

New Jersey’s fall season generally runs from Labor Day to Thanksgiving for the majority of the items; some hardier items such as hard squashes (Acorn and Butternut), leeks, turnips, sweet potatoes and Jersey white sweet potatoes can continue to Christmas. The upcoming fall deal looks to follow that pattern, according to Mr. Consalo.

Asked to quantify the importance of the fall deal, Mr. Consalo said that “if you break the year up, it’s a third of the business” although with a different set of crops.

More important perhaps, Mr. Consalo pointed out that Eastern retailers and other distributors can continue taking advantage of New Jersey’s close proximity as well as touting their locally grown programs by continuing to feature New Jersey produce right up to Thanksgiving, weather permitting. As always, Mr. Consalo urged retailers to “keep their programs going” and not to give up on New Jersey produce prematurely.