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Hadley Date Gardens ships all year, biggest push at fall season

“We are picking and packing new-crop [dates] now and getting ready to ship out our fall produce program,” said Albert Keck, president of Hadley Date Gardens Inc. in Thermal, CA, in an interview with The Produce News Oct. 12.

Hadley markets fresh dates and date products in a variety of pack styles such as square tubs, round tubs, cups and overwrapped trays, all bearing the “Hadley’s” label. The company offers Medjool, Deglet Noor and Zahidi varieties, all “grown and packed by us,” Mr. Keck said. The product line includes whole fresh dates, pitted dates, date nuggets and date coconut rolls.

“For the fall holiday season, we like to provide a full spectrum of date products,” he said. “That displays well, and it moves well in the fall season.”

Hadley offers its products throughout the year. “We do store the dates in cold storage, and we ship year-round” because “there is demand all year long,” Mr. Keck said. “But the fall season is the big push,” and that “coincides with our harvest.”

With the 2011 harvest in full swing, “we have good-looking product coming off of the trees now, and we are excited to gear up” for the holiday demand period, he said. “It is always nice to get to this time of year.” Bringing the date crop to this point each year is “a yearlong endeavor,” he said. It involves many different cultural practices at different times over the course of the year to bring about a good, quality crop and to protect the fruit until it can be harvested. “It is always nice to get to the fall season when we can bring the crop in and secure it.”

This year’s harvest is “a little bit later than normal,” he said, but “our yields are looking good. We had a little heat wave in early September, and that took a little bit of a bite out of some of the orchards, but overall, we have had really good fall ripening weather since then, so it is coming along nicely.”

Hadley’s dates are grown in the Coachella Valley of California. “The orchards in the valley mature at different times,” Mr. Keck said. “There is actually quite a wide window during tht harvest season. Some of the orchards, because of their location or their age, ripen earlier than others and some are quite late.” Different varieties also mature at different times. “We are now getting into those early orchards,” and the harvest will probably continue into December and possibly even into January.

“Overall, it has been a good growing season [with] very gentle weather, for the most part,” he said. The company expects an increase in production this year, but “demand is brisk” and shipments to date have been strong. “We are trying to keep up” with the demand, he added. “Getting that push out for the fall season is important for us.”