Rich Marolda Jr. to repeat successful organic lettuce program
As Marolda Farms was in the midst of the summer season in New Jersey, Rich Marolda Jr. was already looking to repeat his successful spring organic lettuce program this fall.
“I did an organic lettuce program in the spring,” Marolda told The Produce News the first week in August. “I kind of jumped in with two feet, and it turned out pretty good.” As such, he will be planting organic lettuce this fall.
“The last organic lettuce program, I had everybody ask me if I was going to do it again in the fall,” he said. “And I told everyone yes because I felt that it was a winner for us.” That fall program will be Romaine, green leaf and red leaf.
Another good item in the spring was organic onions. “I tried organic onions, just a little plot of half an acre,” he said. “It started off slow, and I almost abandoned the project, but I ended up sticking it out, and I had beautiful, beautiful spring onions.”
The spring and early summer did present challenges, of course. “I think that a lot of guys would agree with me that the spring season was tough,” said Marolda. “It was not a good market. You had small, little hits here and there early on, but generally speaking, the spring greens and herbs market here was tough.”
However, “I’m optimistic how the summer veg deal is going to play out,” he said, mentioning hot peppers as a good item.
“Our spring veg deal -- the quality was phenomenal this year,” he stated. “Everything was spot on. It was the market that just wasn’t there. Demand and prices were down.”
That said, Marolda was in the midst of planting and harvesting a variety of items for the end of summer into the fall.
“We planted more leeks this year than last year, and last year we planted more leeks than the year before. I anticipate that being a nice steady item for us,” he said Monday, Aug. 9. “We started harvesting last week; we’ll harvest that now until sometime in January. Again, I anticipate that to be a good, steady item for us.”
He continued, “We’re going to start picking plum tomatoes this week; we grow and harvest for the sauce market, not the processing market. Again, that’s an item that we increased acreage on. It looks like it’s going to be a successful run. It’ll take us about three to four weeks to go through all the tomatoes.”
Regarding two more items, he said, “For the fall, I feel really good about the conventional beets. I think that will be good for us again. “On parsley, we’re going to keep seeding more for the fall, and I think that’s going to also be a good item for us.”
Marolda Farms, located in Vineland, NJ, is owned and operated by Richard Marolda Sr. and his wife, Sherry. Richard Marolda Jr. (their son) is the production manager and also spearheads the company’s organic program; those products are shipped under the “Rock & Roll Organics” label by the entity known as Sweetvine.
The company harvests from about 250 acres of conventional acreage and close to 125 acres of certified organic acreage, according to Rich Jr.
The fall season is a key part of the company’s over all New Jersey produce deal. “I would consider the fall deal in New Jersey from October 1 to Thanksgiving,” he said.
During that timeframe, “there are a lot of other regions producing. For New Jersey farmers to sell and move the crops and make money, [the fall deal] means a lot. That’s one-third of our time. The more that we can get out of that last two months, the more we can put back into what we do in the spring. For us as a New Jersey grower, the fall deal is small, but it’s indispensable. It really is.”