“Status quo, and all things moving smoothly is a good thing in the fresh produce business, and that’s what we have this spring in Florida,” Calvert Cullen, president of Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., headquartered in Cheriton, VA, told The Produce News in early March. “March came in like a lion with a couple of cold snaps with temperatures dropping into the low 30s, but very little damage was reported in our area.”
He noted that in what is referred to as the “blackland” or “muckland” area of Florida, growing regions in the center of the state that include Pahokee, Belle Glade and Okeechobee City, said that temperatures dropped down to 25 degrees in some fields during the cold snap. Growers there were still assessing the damage almost a week later.
Northampton Growers’ Florida spring growing locations are nearer to the Atlantic Ocean, where temperatures tend to stay a little higher during springtime cold snaps.
“For the most part everything in our area is going according to plan,” said Mr. Cullen. “Spring crops start rolling around the first of April, and we’re looking forward to solid movement.”
Northampton Growers does a major job with its commodity crops in all of its growing regions. It follows the seasons from south, central and north Florida, to Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia and then on to Michigan. It then it reverses its growing program and moves back toward the south for year-round supplies.
The company grows a full line of greens, including kale, collard, mustard and turnip greens, green, wax and flat beans, zucchini and yellow squashes, eggplant, hard squashes such as acorn, butternut and spaghetti squash, sweet corn, cucumbers, pickles, green, onions and more. Its pepper line is comprised of bell peppers as well as the more trendy peppers like Jalapeno, Cubanelle, finger hots and Hungariun wax.
Northampton Growers will start its Florida spring produce movement with cucumbers and squashes, followed by peppers and eggplant. March 17 St. Patricks’ day cabbage movement was already very strong in early March.
“St. Patrick’s Day cabbage movement could represent from 25 to 30 percent of our total annual cabbage sales,” noted Mr. Cullen. “Movement stays strong right up to the March 15, and there may even be some scrambling on March 16. As a whole, it is the largest cabbage shipping time of the year for us.”
He added that the company ships as much cabbage in the two weeks prior to Saint Patrick’s Day than it does in January, February, March and April combined.
Mr. Cullen said that all of this year’s spring Florida crops are high-quality and good volumes. The company transitions to Moultrie, Georgia in May, and begins harvesting there in April. North Carolina begins the first of June.
Mr. Cullen’s partner in Northampton Growers is Steve McCready, who also serves as controller of the company. It was founded in 1959 on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Since its founding, the firm has grown from a two-person operation to a full time in-house staff of 30 employees.
The company grows and packs quality produce for distribution to chainstores, wholesale markets and terminal markets throughout the eastern 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 said that a normal season is a welcome relief from those years when weather conditions have growing regions throughout the East moving product outside of their marketing window and causing prices to either dive or to jump high.
“The bottom line to the produce industry always flows back to supply and demand,” he noted. “If there’s too much supply, demand drops along with prices. For companies like Northampton, it’s therefore important to be diversified in not only product, but also in customer base.”