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Bob Donio expecting a good fall season in New Jersey

hammonton, nj — Before looking ahead to New Jersey’s fall produce season, Bob Donio reflected on the past couple of months. “All in all it was pretty good, except for the thunderstorms,” he told The Produce News Monday afternoon, Aug. 12. “The thunderstorms have been a real pain this year.”

But those thunderstorms during spring and summer varied in intensity around the Garden State, and hurt some growing areas more than others. As Donio put it, “Not everybody was getting the storms to the same degree.”

donio6593David Arena and Bob Donio of Frank Donio Inc. displayed a 100 percent recyclable box of New Jersey green squash, grown in a company field. Photo by Gordon M. HochbergAnd because of the challenges that storms can inflict on crops, “You always have to be careful to make sure the product that was affected by the storms was good,” said Donio, vice president of Frank Donio Inc., here. “You have to make sure you get the right product to the right people.”

In further assessing the season to date, Donio stated, “Generally, the market for Jersey vegetables was pretty good. And the movement was good.” Asked about quality to date, he replied, “All in all, quality was pretty good. Between the rains and the humidity, quality was pretty good.”

Looking back at the important Jersey blueberry deal, Donio said, “The Jersey season got cut short because of the storms. Volume for the fresh market was lower than originally expected, and more product than normal went to the processors. But all in all, it was a good season.”

Looking ahead to the fall, Donio said, “This last week has seen pretty good weather. So a lot of fall vegetables are still being planted. But over all, the volume planted for the fall is a bit lower than years ago. The trend is somewhat lower.”

He continued, “Over the last five to 10 years, the trend is lower for fall vegetables. Less acreage is being planted, and growers are taking less risk.” He said that the fall season can be “riskier than the spring and summer seasons” because if a problem arises during the fall, there is less time to recover, with winter’s cold temperatures always on the horizon.

Nevertheless, the New Jersey fall produce season remains an important one to Frank Donio Inc. and to everyone involved in the deal. The quality of the fall items is consistently high, and the items satisfy the desire by both retailers and consumers for locally grown product, emphasized Donio.

Some retailers “still tend to look to other areas after Labor Day, but we still hope that they will support the local growers,” he added. “New Jersey continues to provide high quality and good volume that the retailers can count on.”

Frank Donio Inc. continues to offer a wide range of items during the fall to satisfy those retailers, he said. The company’s fall offerings will include Romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, red leaf lettuce, green cabbage, Savoy cabbage, cilantro, parsley, escarole, endive, spinach, Swiss chard, hard squashes, cauliflower and kale.

And for the holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, the company will as usual have gourds, sweet potatoes and yams. “Consumers want local yams for Thanksgiving,” he stated.

On the personnel front, Donio announced that Wayne Kuehner, 33, who has been with the company for about five years in the technology area, has added sales to his responsibilities. Also, Alec Arena, son of company President David Arena, joined the company in June in sales.