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Northampton Growers optimistic about Florida’s fall season

By
Keith Loria

Northampton Growers Produce is enjoying a solid November in Florida, as the company got a good start on peppers, cucumbers and squash. The fall deal is looking strong, and all expectations are the company will have a great winter.

“Florida goes from now until we start winding down around the first of April,” said W. Calvert Cullen IV, president of the company, which also has operations in, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina and Michigan.

This year, the Sunshine State experienced a lot of rain, so that makes it difficult to predict yields, though the quality is already looking good. Some of the stuff was late getting planted because they couldn’t get on the fields, but there’s still plenty of hope about the season.

“Overall, we’re pretty optimistic and everything is looking good,” Cullen said. “We are basically on our same program with the same acreage, and until this pandemic thing gets corrected, it’s hard to plan any growth.”

Speaking of the COVID-19 crisis, Northampton Growers was able to maintain business, with workers “putting their feet to the ground” and going off of its previous programs to find success.

“If you’re a farmer, you have to stay optimistic and there’s no need to think it’s not going to work or there’s no reason to even do it,” Cullen said. “We’re just hoping that things continue to get better little by little. Some things have, and we’re expecting more to get better.”

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.

“You have Thanksgiving and Christmas pulls on certain items, like green beans and peppers, but some of that has changed over the years,” Cullen said. “A lot of people don’t have the old-fashioned holiday dinners they once had, so that makes things a little different.”

Northampton Growers has been growing in Florida since 1992, and currently grows in Okeechobee and around the Plant City area.

Working in Florida during the fall creates some great produce, with Cullen citing the temperature as being the top reason.

“It’s not too hot, not too cold and you don’t usually get too much rain during the season,” he said. “It’s really perfect growing conditions.”

Plus, he points to Okeechobee’s dark, organic soil which is perfect for cabbage, and the other land is ideal for peppers and squash because it’s more of a sandy-type loom.

Since 1959, the company has aimed to meet the needs of chain stores, wholesale and terminal markets on the Eastern Shore, and has found success as a grower, packer and shipper. As 2022 quickly approaches, the Northampton Growers team hopes things get back to a more normal way of life.

“We’re dealing with increases in fuel cost, which effects everything we do — from the boxes to the fertilizer to running the tractors and trucks, fuel is a major component,” Cullen said. “We just want to get past this COVID-19 thing and get back on a normal track.”

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