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Northampton Growers ready for a good Florida spring

East Coast seasonal grower, Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., headquartered in Cheriton, VA, is geared up and ready for what it anticipates will be a good Florida spring movement.

On March 27, W. Calvert Cullen IV, company president, told The Produce News that its Florida vegetable crops were, for the most part, on time this year and looking good.

“Spring squash is running now,” said Cullen. “Spring peppers will start around April 7-8, about the same time as cucumbers.

calvert-cullenCalvert Cullen“For the most part weather throughout the Florida growing season has been good,” he continued. “We’ve had some cool temperatures, and an abundance of rain. But overall it’s been pretty good for the crops.”

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. “We felt the competition from Mexico on beans and squashes this year,” said Cullen. “Those are the main two commodities that we typically feel pressure on from there. NAFTA is a long process. But our current secretary of agriculture is a pretty sharp guy, so we’re hoping he will see us through the challenges.” Despite that, Cullen said he doesn’t see a total NAFTA fix for at least another year or two.

Northampton Growers grows, markets and ships cabbage 12 months a year. Cullen said that this year’s St. Patrick’s Day cabbage movement, which is typically the company’s strongest period of the year for the product, was one of the highest markets the company has ever had.

“There was a cabbage acreage shortage in Florida, and especially in Texas,” explained Cullen. “Texas basically skipped planting because of the heavy rains that fell there. That translates into an overall good cabbage market for us.”

Green beans, however, were “completely in the tank,” according to Cullen. This was the result of an over-supply and not enough demand.

“We’ll start cucumbers in a few weeks,” he noted. “Some of our neighbors have already started with cucumbers. But cooler weather, which we’ve had this season, is not advantageous to some items — including cucumbers — in the Cucurbitales’ family of produce.”

Northampton Growers will wrap up its South Florida programs about a week after Mother’s Day. It then heads to Georgia for that movement.

“We’ll start in Georgia long before we wrap up Florida,” explained Cullen. “Cabbage will start there on April 10-15. Then we’ll be moving forward with squashes, peppers, including specialty peppers, and eggplant.”

Cullen also pointed out that people are adapting to new trucking legislations such as the ELD mandate, which places new restrictions on drivers.

“They are also adjusting to the resulting increased transportation costs,” he said. “Delivery costs are higher than in past years.”

Despite all challenges that growers face today, Cullen noted, “We’re ready for and looking forward to our spring movement.”