Rainy summer disrupts New York summer deal

07/22/2013 11:31:00 AM
Doug Ohlemeier

Buyers shouldn’t expect this summer to bring normal production from many New York vegetables.

Torrential spring rains interrupted spring plantings and are expected to cause supply gaps and or shorter volume on many of the Empire State’s items, including sweet corn, green beans, cabbage, squash and potatoes.

“There will be gaps everywhere in the state,” Maureen Torrey, vice president of Torrey Farms Inc., Elba, N.Y., said in mid-July.

“The gaps will fill in, though, and there should be enough product. Even our peers in different growing regions have had gaps. Retailers will be glad when things get easier and more supply begins coming from different areas. Still, we are looking forward to a good season.”

Corn and bean growers endured a two-week period of planting gaps in late May and early June and another in late June that ran through early July.

Jason Turek, partner in Turek Farms, King Ferry, N.Y., said buyers should expects supply gaps for corn to begin in early August.

Green beans also don’t look good, he said.

“The first plantings look really nice but then we will go into a week to 10-day skip after those first pickings,” Turek said in mid-July.

“From there, they don’t look as good. There are big holes in the fields where the beans are completely gone.”

Volume is uncertain on cabbage.

Eric Hansen, vice president of Hansen Farms LLC, Stanley, N.Y., said the rains destroyed plantings and expects volume to be sporadic with possible late August and early September gaps.

“We will be behind and run into a gap sometime in the middle of the season because of the planting delays,” he said in mid-July.

“We had as good a planting season we could ask for up until the first of June, when it became bad. The plants are dead. We went from being optimistic on the early harvest to now it’s questionable on volume.”

Dave Walczak, sales and operations manager of Eden Valley Growers, Eden, N.Y., said this year should be unlike any other.

He said Eden Valley has received rain but isn’t in as bad of shape as other New York growers.

“This growing season is much different than past years,” he said in mid-July.

“It’s the same across New York, the way it looks. In general, it’s a little wetter, a little cooler and a little slower to start. We usually dry out quicker after rains and can return to the fields faster, so in general we should be in good shape this year.”

Walczak said Eden Valley’s corn, squash, cucumbers, bell peppers, eggplant and lettuce should begin harvests from seven to 10 days later than usual.

Despite the challenges afflicting many crops, other corn growers say buyers should expect strong supplies.

“This year, we have an excellent crop,” Tim Richards, salesman with Gill Corn Farms Inc., Hurley, N.Y., said in mid-July. “It’s looking really good now.”

Richards said he thinks New York corn acreage has declined.

“This year, I get the feeling that we won’t see such over-production,” he said.

“I have no measurements or research on it, but from the few things I hear, we may not have an oversupply situation but should have adequate and good supplies.”

The planting season brought many challenges for potato growers, said John Williams, partner with Williams Farms LLC, Marion, N.Y.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” he said in early July.

“This spring has just been horrible for us. It started out good and everything was decent until we got two solid weeks of constant rain.”

Rains also affected onions and potato fields and delayed growers’ plantings.

“This season has been too wet,” John Williams, partner with Williams Farms LLC, Marion, N.Y., said in mid-July.

“We have been struggling to plant and lost at least a third of our potatoes. But we will do our best. It will definitely be a challenge but we will have supply.”

Sweet onion growers are eyeing a strong crop.

“We feel very good about the crop,” Delbert Bland, president of Bland Farms LLC, Glennville, Ga., said in mid-July.

“The quality looks excellent at this point.”

While growers typically begin harvesting many vegetables in July, production of storage potatoes and onions usually begins in August and September.

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