view current print edition




JMB Distributing Inc. in Nogales, AZ, which specializes in green beans, was receiving no product at all, at a time volume would normally have been strong and steady, when The Produce News talked to Harry Sbragia, the company’s president, Feb. 4.

“We had some sizeable freeze damage” from the mid-January cold snap that resulted in a loss of “a sizeable acreage,” he said. It happened to be a field that was just about to come into production.

Interestingly, “the field we were in at the time of the freeze didn’t get hit, but the lot we were going to be starting a week later got hit,” and it was just the other side of the freeway, Rick Sbragia, who handles sales and quality control at JMB Distributing Inc. in Nogales, told The Produce News Feb. 1. The company lost 80 hectares [200 acres] of beans in Guasave due to the freeze. But another field with 200 hectares [500 acres] of green beans that were expected to start about mid-February, “should be fine,” he said.

“We have basically been out of supplies for the past two weeks, and we likely will be very light for the next two weeks,” said Harry Sbragia. “Then we will start back into our late season,” as the next field, which was not damaged, comes into production.

By the latter part of February, “we will be going full bore,” he said. “We’ve got sizeable plantings for the late [season], and crops look good. We’ve got flowers setting. We’ve got beans showing on the plant.” He expects to be back in steady production from around mid-February to the first of May.

“I think we will have more product than we did last year,” Mr. Sbragia continued. “We’re getting better yields, and we’ve got some varieties that we really like. It won’t be a sizeable increase. Maybe 10 to 15 percent more, but still more, and quality has been very, very good this year,” better and more consistent than in most years. “Hopefully we’ve got a market and we’ve got demand.”

The quest for better bean varieties is an ongoing effort. “We continually explore for new varieties to get the consistencies that we want” through various weather conditions, “and we have discovered a couple that we really like,” he said. Other characteristics he looks for in a bean variety are a dark color, “smooth straight beans,” and something with nice velvety or shiny appearance. It is also desirable to be able to “harvest the major part of the crop all at once without having to wait for different sets.”

JMB’s bean fields are generally located within a fairly limited geographic area. “We pretty much stay within maybe a 20 mile radius each year, and we rotate our crops,” Mr. Sbragia said. “We never plant two years in the same ground.” Some of the ground is company owned, and “some we rent, but we keep rotating the crops.”