Prime Time says operational preparedness is key to Coachella peppers
Prime Time International is gearing up for its Coachella pepper season, transitioning out of Mexico as that operation is beginning to wind down. “For the next two and a half months, the Coachella Valley will be the heart and soul of domestic production with a multitude of seasonal produce items,” said Katy Johnson, purchasing and marketing manager for the La Quinta, CA-based company.
For Prime Time, that means green, red, and yellow Bell peppers, along with white and bi-color sweet corn, eggplant and chilies. “While we will continue to pack hot house Bell peppers, asparagus and sweet mini peppers in various regions across Mainland and Baja Mexico throughout the summer, our U.S. facilities will be in full swing, bearing the load for the bulk of Prime Time’s pepper supply,” said Johnson.
The transition to the Coachella Valley is underway now and will continue to migrate north in early summer to the San Joaquin Valley and Central Coast of California. The California desert’s warm, dry climate allows for peak growing conditions in the springtime.
“Volume, quality and size are optimized in April, May and early June before the extreme heat hits — it is a perfect window of opportunity for the next few months, a great kickoff to summer for both shippers and customers,” said Johnson.
The Coachella Valley has had a warm winter and early spring, leading Prime Time to expect an earlier start to the season. “Sweet corn will start almost two weeks earlier than usual for Prime Time as well as green Bells,” Johnson said. Typically, Prime Time plans to have harvest numbers peak for the Memorial Day weekend, as it represents the biggest promotional pull during the Coachella season. “Currently, we are still on track for that timeline, but ultimately, Mother Nature will decide how the Coachella season plays out,” said Johnson.
Peppers have become a staple in the produce section over the years, with their vibrant colors and variety of uses. Johnson said peppers are a go-to item for retail consumers, foodservice, and processors. Market demand for peppers is fairly consistent but is strengthened at this point in the year when quality and quantity decline from Mexico, and in anticipation of the upcoming U.S. crop.
As for the myriad of challenges facing the produce industry, Johnson said preparedness is the theme for the entire Prime Time team. “In today’s world there are so many challenges in every facet of the growing, packing, shipping process that each step has to have a plan A, B, C and D in case of hiccups,” she said. “Water and labor continue to be an issue, weather is unpredictable, fuel prices are skyrocketing and the supply chain is a nightmare for packing materials, equipment and basic operational needs.”
While anticipating curveballs is an exhausting effort, Johnson said, “Prime Time is ready for the challenges and opportunities that may arise during the Coachella season as well as the rest of the year.”
A byproduct of Prime Time’s theme of preparedness is its investment in sustainable farm practices and environmental stewardship. “For over 30 years, Prime Time has been committed to taking a different path, moving towards a farming system that is more sustainable than in the past,” said Johnson.
For Prime Time this means using state-of-the-art, science-based practices that work with nature and avoiding damaging impacts to people, the planet, and production. “This includes building and maintaining healthy soil, managing water wisely, minimizing pollution, and promoting biodiversity through crop rotation, drip irrigation, integrated pest management, solar powered packing houses and irrigation systems, recycle and reuse programs, and fuel-efficient equipment,” she said.
Prime Time believes it has a moral obligation to pursue the goal of sustainability.
“We will continue striving toward that goal every day in all of our operations from the planting of seeds to the picking, packing and distribution of our crops,” said Johnson.