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Bob De Lash looks ahead to the fall deal for Frank Donio Inc.

HAMMONTON, NJ — The summer deal has been “a little bit of a struggle because of the weather,” said Bob De Lash of Frank Donio Inc. But “availability has been good, quality has been OK” due in part to the rainy summer, and “pricing has been very good.”

As to the 2011 New Jersey fall deal, Mr. De Lash told The Produce News Aug. 23 at the company’s headquarters here, “Talking to some growers, even after all the rain we’ve had, they’re reporting that the items in the ground look good.” New Jersey grows a wide variety of items in the fall, including “your lettuces, your cooking greens, your cabbage, radishes, sweet potatoes and herbs,” he noted.

New Jersey’s fall season generally runs from the first week in September through the first serious frost. The timing in 2011 so far looks to be fairly normal, but it “all depends on the weather,” said Mr. De Lash, who has been with the company for 14 years, mostly in sales. “Weather dictates our business.”

Regardless of the exact timing, the fall deal is a key one for everyone involved, from growers to distributors to retailers.

With the locally grown trend as strong as ever, fall items from the Garden State can be harvested and shipped quickly to retailers that want to offer the freshest product available to consumers, noted Mr. De Lash.

“Product is fresh. It can be picked and shipped the same day,” he said. And some fall products can be better than in the heart of the summer “because they are not heat stressed as much.”

Finally, Mr. De Lash was asked if the transition from the summer vegetable deal to the fall deal was looking like it would be a smooth one. “I think it will,” he replied. “Until Florida and Texas start their deals, generally in November, at this time of year there’s only the West Coast and the East Coast. And New Jersey is a key part of the East Coast deal.”