New warehouse office and new staff at the Vineland Produce Auction
The Vineland Produce Auction opened for business on April 28, just one day later than last year’s opening, according to the auction’s Carol DeFoor, who noted that both volume and quality were starting on a strong note.
“The auction started with quite a bit of stuff,” she told The Produce News Tuesday, May 4. “Asparagus came in strong, lettuces are starting already, along with parsleys, cilantro, dill and even beets. We’ve been having bok choy every day. It’s a pretty diversified list already for being only the first week.”
Volume has been “pretty strong,” she added, “and the quality’s been good because we’ve had no issues and no problems.”
Looking farther down the road toward Memorial Day, DeFoor said that lettuces and cabbages would be starting, “and all of the greens that we normally have in the spring will be coming in.” She expected “plentiful” volume on those items as well, since “everybody seems to be having a good crop this year.”
The auction, located on 44 acres, has about 130,000 square feet of cross-dock loading, according to its website. It has state-of-the-art cooling facilities to maintain the cold chain, and can cool about 200,000 packages in a 24-hour period.
Asked how the pandemic affected things at the well-known auction in southern New Jersey, DeFoor replied, “You know, going into the start of the season last year, nobody knew what to expect of COVID-19. So everyone was fearful, nobody knew whether they should plant or not plant. And it actually turned out to be a pretty successful year, which surprised everybody. All of our brokers, all of our buyers, all of our growers, everyone complied with the procedures that we had put in place.”
Over the winter, the auction built a new office in the warehouse “to allow for better customer service,” said DeFoor. “We made it more efficient.” The new office took about six weeks to build, she said, adding, “It’s been a long time coming, and it’s really worked out well.”
On the personnel front, Rhiannon Coulter, her daughter Elisa Coulter and Denise Zemanik joined the auction over the winter. Rhiannon Coulter and Zemanik are working in the main office; Elisa Coulter is working with the cooler staff. Jean Liebow, who had been a seasonal employee for 25 years, retired over the winter. Melissa Corson, previously working in the office, is now working in the warehouse.
Asked to sum up her thoughts and expectations for the coming spring and summer at the auction, DeFoor replied, “I can only hope for bigger and better things. Farming is obviously a gambling industry. You gamble on the weather, you gamble on the markets, you gamble on everything. We can only hope that everything is going to continue. The quality is there. Our farmers are generation farmers, as we’ve said before. So they know how to raise top-quality produce. And we hope our customer base is there to purchase it.”