“We’re harvesting a few cucumbers and some squash in Central Florida now,” Calvert Cullen, co-owner of Northampton Growers, headquartered in Cheriton, VA, told The Produce News on Oct. 19. “If we don’t have any freeze issues or other weather problems, we’ll plunge forward and go all the way into next spring in Florida.”
He added that the company will start moving peppers in South Florida around Dec. 10-15.
As of mid-October, conditions in Florida seemed to be good, but Mr. Cullen said that anything can happen when growing field vegetables.
“Our summer and early fall deals were pretty good but with a couple of weather issues,” he said. “We lost about half of our bean crops in our northern growing areas when the rains from the hurricanes came through.”
In mid-October, the company was still harvesting in North Carolina and in Georgia.
“We are moving green beans and cabbage in North Carolina,” said Mr. Cullen. “We will wrap up around November 5 there, depending on the weather.
“In Georgia, we’re now moving peppers, cucumbers, squash, eggplant and our full line of specialty hot peppers, which are among the more ‘trendy’ items in the field-grown category that are in strong demand today,” he continued. “We will wrap up in Georgia in a couple more weeks. Cucumbers and squashes are almost done, but we have at least a couple more weeks on the other items, depending, of course, on the weather.”
Northampton Growers follows the seasons from Florida northward, ending up in Michigan before it begins its fall crop season and moves back toward Florida.
In addition to the aforementioned items, the company handles sweet corn, hard and summer squashes, leafy greens such as mustard greens, kale and collards, as well as onions and numerous other products. It is known for its high-quality packs of fresh produce that are distributed to chain stores, wholesale markets and terminal markets, primarily along the East Coast of the United States.
Northampton works in cooperation with field inspectors at its operations in Fairfield, NC, Elizabeth City, NC, Moultrie, GA, Norman Park, GA, Hastings, FL, and Boynton Beach, FL.
Mr. Cullen noted that Georgia growers are fighting a whitefly problem on all of the field crops. Whiteflies typically feed on the underside of plant leaves.
“Other than taking two bricks and smashing them together, there’s no sure way to kill whiteflies,” he said. “Georgia has a major cotton crop, and whiteflies come along with the crop. As long as the cotton is green, they stay with the crop, but when harvesting starts they infiltrate everything else.”
The bottom line to the produce industry always flows back to supply and demand. If there’s too much supply, demand drops along with prices. Mr. Cullen said that fuel costs this year have only intensified the problems that producers now face.
“For companies like ours, it’s important to be diversified in not only product, but also in customer base,” he said. “We are lucky to have had enough labor this year, which is another major challenge growers in the U.S. face today. The election results in November will play a major role in how labor laws unfold in the future.
“Farmers are going out of business every day,” he continued. “I think that Florida alone will lose about 20 percent of its growers this year. At some point, laws and policies that affect us are going to have to be addressed, or the government is going to have to start thinking seriously about where it’s going to go to get the food supply needed to feed our population.”