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Sunny Valley gears up for NJ blueberry and peach seasons

With spring in full bloom, Bob Von Rohr, director of marketing and customer relations at Glassboro, NJ-based Sunny Valley International, said it’s a busy time for his company.

Not only is Sunny Valley International one of the larger shippers of New Jersey peaches — with farming partnerships of more than 1,800 acres and acting as the the exclusive agent for the Jersey Fruit Cooperative in Glassboro, under the Jersey Fruit label, and Larchmont Farms, based in Elmer, NJ, with the Just Picked label — but the company also is busy with New Jersey blueberries.

“Blueberries are a popular item today because of their health benefits,” Von Rohr said. “Our New Jersey blueberries are hand-picked to ensure only the best quality is being harvested. They start harvesting around June 12 and we do the equivalent of 800,000 cases of fresh blueberries under the Jersey Fruit label.”

Copy-of-Heilig-Peaches-pulled-by-tractor The Duke is the early season variety, and the Bluecrop variety runs in mid-season to the end of the harvest. Both varieties are available in both conventional and organic production.

For organics, the company partners with Hammonton, NJ-based Big Buck Farms, the largest organic blueberry producer in the state, carrying the Little Buck Organics label in both half-pint and full-pint packages. 

“We’ll have six weeks of harvesting, packing and shipping,” Von Rohr said. “It’s a great time of the season because it falls right into the Fourth of July holiday. Everyone wants to put out red, white and blue, so the blueberries fit in traditionally well.”

Because New Jersey blueberries are grown in an area within close proximity to Boston, Philadelphia, New York and D.C., the demand is higher than it’s ever been for the category. And the crop is expected to be a great one in 2019.

Peach season will follow the busy blueberry season around the first week of July and all indications are the crop will be strong, with no early warning signs. The season will run through September.

“We had a great winter that resulted in plenty of chill hours and great moisture,” Von Rohr said. “We represent probably around 70 percent of the peach crop within the state of New Jersey. We do yellow peaches, white peaches, and also yellow nectarines.”

As always, the company is keeping its eye on Mother Nature, as weather challenges have hurt both the peach and blueberry crops in the past, but so far, everything looks good and there’s optimism around.

Sunny Valley International wouldn’t be as successful as it is, Von Rohr said, without the cooperation from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the Peach Promotion Council of New Jersey.

“They are both a great help to us, and we love the Jersey Fresh initiative,” Von Rohr said. “The nice thing about being in this business is that people always want to eat healthy. They may be following some fads or trends, but I don’t think consuming produce will ever go out of style.”

Sunny Valley International is among many in the state focused on sustainability and this is something that Von Rohr also noted makes them standout. The growers are working with the Rutgers Department of Agriculture on an integrated pest management program and are utilizing drip irrigation to minimize water usage.