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Northampton Growers expecting an outstanding Florida season

Vegetable growers that follow the seasonal flow from Florida northward, and then reverse their programs back to the south each year are especially vulnerable to inclement weather conditions that cause damage or loss to field crops.

Northampton Growers Produce Sales Inc., headquartered in Cheriton, VA, is no exception. The company 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 for year-round supplies of its commodities.

Last year the company suffered a double whammy. Its Florida crops were wiped out by Hurricane Florence in September. Then, in early October, just as its Georgia crops were ready for harvesting, it was ravaged by Hurricane Michael.

On Nov. 7, W. Calvert Cullen IV, president of Northampton Growers Produce, told The Produce News that this year yet another weather event — Hurricane Dorian — pillaged the company’s Carolina crops.

calvert-cullenCalvert Cullen“Dorian was a freak storm,” said Cullen. “It came on suddenly, and as it moved over the Gulf Stream it intensified into a Category 3 hurricane. On Sept. 6 it came ashore off the South Carolina coast. We lost about 80 percent of what was planted.”

But eventually things turned brighter. Northampton Growers Produce’s Georgia crop this fall has been great, and it is looking forward to an outstanding Florida fall season.

“Georgia crops came in a little early this season,” said Cullen. “Volumes were great and the quality has been outstanding.

“In Florida we are just starting to pick some cucumbers, peppers and squashes in Plant City,” he continued. “The rest of our commodities, including eggplants, hot peppers and others will follow. Volumes will pick up strongly in the coming month.”

He added that as the Florida season gears up the Georgia crops would wind down.

Cabbage is a major commodity for Northampton Growers Produce. Cullen said the company began picking in Georgia the second week of November, and Florida cabbage will start harvesting around the December holidays.

“There will be a little cabbage overlap between Florida and Georgia,” he said. “We have always aimed for Florida cabbage to start just after the first of the year, but warmer conditions bring the crop on earlier.”

Although the company in its present corporate structure was founded in 1959, Cullen’s family heritage in United States farming goes back hundreds of years. The current company was created to meet the needs on the East Coast, and it soon became one of the largest produce growers, packers and shippers on Virginia’s Eastern shore.

From its inception, the company has been the source of the freshest premium quality produce that comes directly from its own farms and growing partners, and everything is shipped with its promise of freshness.

“We are dedicated to operating within the highest ethical standards and management practices,” said Cullen. “Our team, many who have been with Northampton Growers Produce for over 25 years, continue to meet the needs of each customer.”

Cullen’s partner in Northampton Growers Produce is Steve McCready, who serves as the company’s comptroller.

The company’s line consists of green, red, Savoy and Napa cabbage, Bell and specialty peppers, zucchini and squash, green, wax and flat beans, cucumbers and pickles, leafy greens, purple and white eggplant, yellow, white and colored corn and a wide variety of hard squashes.

It markets products grown in Georgia and Virginia under the Plantation brand. Products grown in the Carolinas are marketed under the Mattanuskeett label, after its namesake lake in Fairfield, NC.

Northampton Growers Produce ships throughout the eastern United States, the Midwest and into Canada.

Cullen pointed out that green beans are short this season, so markets are higher.

“We’re seeing some market transitions now,” he said. “Depending on what happens in Mexico, we could see stronger markets on peppers and cucumbers.”