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Northampton Growers on track for a good Georgia program

It was relieving news that the momentum of the storms that ravaged the Southeast region in mid-April stayed west of Northampton Growers Produce Sales’ Georgia farms.

“We did have a storm in Georgia a couple of weeks ago,” W. Calvert Cullen IV, president of the Cheriton, VA-based company told The Produce News on April 15. “That storm, which included hail, set us back a bit on most crops, but we expect to catch up quickly as spring evolves.”

Northampton Growers’ Georgia crops are on schedule to overlap just enough to avoid product gaps as its Florida movements wrap up. Its Florida crop has been good quality and strong volumes, which the company expected to be the case in Georgia, ultimately making for a strong spring for the company.

“Cabbage in Georgia will start the third week of April,” said Cullen. “Squashes will start on May 1, followed by cucumbers around May 10, all hot and bell peppers around May 20 and eggplant about May 25.”

“Florida cabbage will transition into Georgia with pretty much perfect timing,” he continued. “Peppers should also have a smooth transition. We do expect about a 10-day to two-week overlap on squashes, cucumbers and eggplant.”

Cullen explained that the company’s planting schedules allow for a little overlap, but not too much.

“We want programs to function just so we don’t run out of supplies,” he noted. “Although major overlaps can sometimes affect markets, our goal — weather permitting — is to keep our customers’ supplied seamlessly.”

He also explained that product sizes can change as seasonal programs are winding down. Peppers from Florida in its late season, for one example, can be a different size than those that are coming on in Georgia in its early season.

“Demand is strong for all sizes, so it’s not a problem,” said Cullen. “We see this as mostly a regional difference. Customers in the South, for example, prefer smaller peppers that are good for stuffing, while larger sizes are more popular in some northern regions.”

Northampton Growers does a major job with its full line of 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 reverses its growing program and moves back toward the South to ensure year-round supplies for its customers.

The Cullen family records began in America about 16 generations ago, and many were farmers just as they are today. Cullen’s partner in Northampton Growers is Steve McCready, who also serves as the company’s comptroller.

In most years, producers like Northampton Growers, are affected by competition from Mexico, predominantly with Florida crops. The company typically feels pressure on beans and squashes in Florida, but Mexico’s movement winds down as the company transitions into Georgia, alleviating the competition.

“NAFTA is a long process, so we expect it will be another year or two before we see changes,” said Cullen. “Our current secretary of agriculture is a pretty sharp guy, so we hope he will see us through the challenges.”

Cullen pointed out that the early wet season in Georgia caused Northampton Growers to be a little late on cabbage. The commodity is an important crop for the company as it’s a year-round supplier and known for its high-quality crops.

“Georgia cabbage normally starts on May 10 to 15, but this year it will start somewhere between the 22nd and 25th,” he said. “We just could not get into the fields to plant on time because of the moisture. Despite this, we still project a smooth transition from Florida.”

Growing weather in Georgia since that early spring wet period, has been good.

“Our forecast for Georgia’s spring crops is optimistic,” said Cullen. “If the weather holds out, both quality and volumes should be good.”