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Mike & Matt’s drying out after Irene

“The wind from Hurricane Irene wasn’t as bad as we feared, but the rain took a toll on our crops,” Jerry Mongelluzzo, president of Mike & Matt’s Produce Co. LLC, in Vineland, NJ, told The Produce News on Aug. 31. “In some places it was as much as 20 inches, but most areas here got between 10 and 12 inches.”

The company harvested as much eggplant, squash and peppers as possible, knowing that these crops do not like a lot of water. Luckily, it was able to ship these dry products.

“For what was still in the fields, there is potential for fungus and diseases,” said Mr. Mongelluzzo. “But it is important to stay out of the fields for a while following this much rainfall, so it will be a while before the total damage can be assessed.”

He explained that when workers go into the fields immediately after this level of drenching, they carry diseases from one plant to another with them. Plants in the fields that were not badly flooded are expected to rejuvenate.

“New Jersey is known for its sandy loam soil, and growers who have it are very lucky,” said Mr. Mongelluzzo. “But not every grower in New Jersey is that fortunate. As far as being able to replant, we’re right on the edge time-wise. We could get certain crops back within about 30 days.”

He added that he’s surprised about the amount of good-quality product remaining in his fields, but some of it may not have the extended shelf life that it typically has.

Matt & Mike’s averages around 75 farmers at its Vineland auction every day, but on Aug. 31, Mr. Mongelluzzo said only about 50 attended.

“That was actually pretty inspiring,” he said. “Since the storm passed, we have had absolutely perfect weather, and that’s helping. The product that is coming through is in good shape — certainly much better than we feared. Our seeded crops will be fine, so the fall program is looking good.”

Mr. Mongelluzzo noted that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie did an outstanding job of getting warnings out to the public prior to the storm. Although some roads were closed and some people were still under water, things were drying out nicely and only minimal major damage was reported.

“Our guys in the state are the best around,” he said. “They get the job done.”