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John Galaida looking forward to the start of blueberry season

hammonton, nj — The cold spring that New Jersey and most of the Northeast endured “didn’t have too much effect” on blueberries in the Garden State, according to John Galaida, general manager of Pleasantdale Farms. As such, “I’m thinking around the 16th or 17th” of June as a start date for New Jersey blues, he told The Produce News Thursday morning, May 24.

Donio5529John Galaida of Pleasantdale Farms looking at some Duke variety blueberries toward the end of May. Photo by Gordon M. Hochberg.“There was great pollinating weather for a long period of time and then some cold rainy weather during the end of the pollinating season, which may affect the later varieties to a point,” he added.

As the 2018 blueberry season gets ready to begin, Galaida has started to hear from retailers and other buyers looking for information on the popular item. Some buyers “were concerned how the New Jersey crop came through the winter,” he said.

Hammonton-based Frank Donio Inc., a grower, shipper and distributor of fresh fruits and vegetables, sources blueberries from all over the world, including New Jersey. Pleasantdale Farms is one of the main contributors to Donio’s Jersey blueberry program.

Pleasantdale Farms has a total of about 400 acres of blueberries: 300 acres here in Hammonton, which it calls the home farm, and about 100 acres a few miles away in Mullica Township, which it calls the Nesco Farm.

“The crop itself on this farm looks to be an average-sized crop,” said Galaida, who has been in the blueberry industry for more than 39 years and has been general manager at Pleasantdale Farms since it was acquired by Frank Donio Inc. in 2002.

Asked about sizing, Galaida said it was “a little early to say, but with the rainfall that we’ve had, we’re looking for the berries to size up.”

To help prepare for the upcoming season and maintain the best possible quality, “We are looking to put in a multi-lane packing machine,” he informed. “It is scheduled for delivery, and it is supposed to come in before the blueberry season,” he said. “And it should be up and running before the harvest starts.”

The blueberries at Pleasantdale Farms are generally and currently about 95 percent Duke and Bluecrop varieties, according to Galaida, with “a few Elliotts,” a variety that produces later in the season. But the company is “continuing to replant older fields and looing at newer varieties — some early and some later varieties — that would extend the season on both ends,” he said.