Parker Farms turns attention to New York
While Parker Farms is favorably known in the south for its marketing of broccoli, sweet corn, squash and peppers in partnership with nearly half a dozen farms on several thousand acres, come summertime, the company turns a great deal of attention to New York state.
There, Parker Farms enjoys a long-lasting relationship with Kludt Bros. Farm in Kendall, NY, who operate on a more than 1,000-acre farm growing vegetables, primarily broccoli and sweet corn.
“Kludt Farms adds important summer production, which allows Atlantic Fresh, the entity formed by L&M and Parker Farms, to be a 12-month supplier,” said Sean McFadden, business development manager for the Oak Grove, VA-based company.
“This gives us the ability to offer our customer year-round supplies of Eastern-grown product, and we are getting close to being year-round on sweet corn.”
In 2021, the company is experiencing lower markets and higher supplies than what it saw in 2020. In New York, the moderate weather has resulted in crops looking good as of early June and Parker Farms expects a nice season.
“Compared to 2020, markets have not been as good as last year,” McFadden said. “Our business has been steady and thanks to our good partnerships with our retailers, movement with our growers has been good, although at somewhat lower prices.”
Parker Farms distributes its goods from Florida to Maine, and does most of its business east of the Mississippi, except for some sweet corn and other items it brings to Texas.
In New York, broccoli starts in the middle of July with corn following around July 20 and lasting until early August.
“We try to stay in our lane, which is broccoli, sweet corn, summer squash and other mixed vegetables,” McFadden said. “We’re not reaching out to any new product line right now.”
Still, the company continues to grow, with overall acreage up about 10 percent this year.
“A lot of that has to do with good weather; we haven’t lost any crops anywhere, which is a good thing,” McFadden said. “The other part of that is growers are increasing acres to meet anticipated demand.”
Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, which threw a wrench into the plans of just about everyone in the produce business last year, Parker Farms is dealing with additional challenges such as labor issues, and rising costs of production and freight.
“Cost of production — fertilizer, chemicals and fuel is way up. Cost of labor is up,” McFadden said. “Freight is a huge issue for us. Pallets cost up to three times what they did last year. We’re trying to keep our grower partners firmly in the black while faced with higher costs and a lackluster demand is our sole focus right now.”
But Parker Farms remains optimistic about the season ahead.
“Everything on the East Coast that I have seen looks excellent,” McFadden said. “The weather has been favorable, and the crops look healthy.”