R&R Flaim/Next Generation Produce looking forward to start of fall deal
As the dog days of summer start to give way to the crisp fall season, R&R Flaim Farms/Next Generation Produce is looking forward to the transition of its vegetable crops.
Ryan Flaim, a fourth-generation member of the family-owned farm located in Vineland, NJ, said the summer was exceptionally dry, “one of the driest I’ve seen in years, but summer crops like that, as long as you keep up on irrigation, which we do.” He added that he prefers a year like this one as opposed to summers with heavy rainfall.
“When it is dry, at least we can control the water ourselves,” he said. “If we get too much rain, then we leave ourselves vulnerable to disease pressure, which could affect quality.”
Quality this summer was outstanding, said Flaim, and he anticipates that would continue into the fall season, with harvest of the early items such as lettuces expected to begin in mid-September. “We’re already seeing a change in the weather, with temperatures last week cooling off into the 80s,” he said Aug. 15.
Flaim said that markets on summer items were up a bit this year, but so were production costs, so it was hardly a boon for the company. “All of our costs are up this year,” said Flaim. “Diesel fuel is about double what it was last year, gas and fertilizer also were up, and we saw four different increases on our boxes this year.”
He said that while his customers are willing to work with him on increases, “At the end of the day you reach a point where you can’t keep passing along the costs, so we end up absorbing a lot of them.”
Transportation and labor also present challenges for the company, but Flaim said higher transportation rates during the summer can actually work to his benefit, since his local product is more attractive to retailers due to the freight advantage compared to other growing regions.
With regard to labor, Flaim said he is fortunate to have a stable workforce with little turnover, so he is able to keep running with little interruption.
“In fact, my dad and my uncle are very proud of the fact that we have such little turnover with our crews,” said Flaim. “We make sure to treat them well so they want to continue working for us.”
While the foodservice side of his business has seen some recovery after two down years, it still has not reached a pre-pandemic level, said Flaim. But on the flip side, retail business is still very strong and he expects that to continue through the fall.
“During the pandemic, people were cooking more at home, which increased our retail business dramatically,” said Flaim. “Even with things opening up again, we are still seeing strong retail business and that should continue, especially with it being back-to-school time. People tend to get more into a routine when the kids go back to school, and that usually means more meals at home.”
Flaim said that weather permitting his farm’s fall harvest will run through the rest of 2022, wrapping up with late greens.