Sonny Boy Produce getting ready for New Jersey blueberry season
Sonny Boy Produce is a fourth-generation grower/shipper of fresh produce with roots in the gardens of New Jersey, yet with a global reach.
“Our best foot forward is with blueberries, which accounts for about half of our business,” said Tom Consalo, president of the Vineland, NJ-based company. “We work with berries year-round and will move significant volume. We have growers and sourcing throughout the year, and the Jersey berry deal will account for nearly half of that.”
That’s about 3 million pounds of blueberries for the local New Jersey deal. It starts around June 10 and there are some later varieties that will take the company into the first weeks of August.
“We enjoyed some nice warm weather earlier in the season than we have the last couple of years, but then the past three weeks have been chilly nights and mild temperatures,” Consalo said. “Generally, the extremes bring some questions into the quality of the items, but it’s a little too early to make predictions. I would tend to guess it will be a normal year.”
The Jersey deal is paramount for Sonny Boy’s success, as it kicks off the local season, so it’s something the team is always looking forward to.
Aside from that, the company is still very active in the New Jersey veg deal as well, dealing in citrus, apples, pears, leafy greens, cooking greens, herbs and a wide range of other fruits and vegetables.
“Working in New Jersey keeps things interesting,” Consalo said. “The seasonality is something seemingly ever-changing. It seems like every year, there are these swings of a variance of harvest starts and things like that, but logistically, it puts us in a great position. Being nestled within a number of metro areas is definitely great and we have come to love being here.”
The majority of Sonny Boy Produce’s customers are retailers and wholesalers in the Northeast, New England, mid-Atlantic and Midwest, and it also serves eastern Canada and has some foodservice customers.
As the company heads to summer it’s thinking about some growth possibilities, but also focusing on getting back to its roots as far as having more control of the farming operation.
“That’s something that our prior generations really had a stronghold on that kind of got away from us some years ago, but it’s becoming more important and something we are looking to get more involved in again,” Consalo said.
Aside from the weather, which can always present challenges, Sonny Boy has been dealing with the guessing game of forecasting volume. Still, the company has enjoyed a good beginning of the season — with quality looking really nice — and expects 2023 to be a great year overall.
Photo: Bob Consalo and Tom Consalo on their homestead farm in Landisville, NJ.