Torrey Farms continues 12 generations of success
“Cautiously optimistic” is the buzz for Torrey Farms as the company approaches the summer of 2021, thanks to consumers gaining some more familiarity with produce items that they may not have normally purchased pre-COVID-19, and the return of the food service industry.
“We see an opportunity across the entire produce industry for increased consumption,” said Shannon Kyle, who runs sales and marketing for the Elba, NY-based company, and is a member of the 12th generation Torrey family. “I think the swing in home-cooking and retail movement that was driven by pandemic shopping will continue to some extent as many consumers became more comfortable with cooking at home. We’re hopeful for a full recovery in the food service sector as well.”
The company is unique because it currently has members of the 12th generation of the Torrey family working alongside the 11th generation to move the company forward.
“We also grow, harvest, pack and ship everything that we grow,” Kyle said. “We are fully vertically integrated. Our sister company, Paul Marshall Produce and their team of drivers are a critical piece of our company being able to dependably get our produce to our customers, when they need it.”
Since the pandemic began, business has definitely been different for the family-run operations.
“Produce continued moving well for us overall, especially the storage type vegetables that we were shipping at the time the shut downs began,” Kyle said. “Demand soared for items like potatoes and onions which we had in storage from the 2019 crop. We were concerned about what the fresh vegetable deal that we would start in mid-July 2020 would look like and we were conservative with our planting schedules last spring as we did not have any idea how well these items would move, particularly the product packs and sizes that typically go toward foodservice channels.”
She added that the USDA Food Box Program was truly a market saving outlet for many of these items.
“The requirement that all produce going into the USDA food boxes had to be product of the USA provided a level of protection to our domestic markets that we usually do not have, always facing strong competition from Canada and Mexico for the items that we grow,” Kyle said.
As of early June, the crops at Torrey Farms were mostly in the planting stages and its onion crop was in the ground with the stands looking good.
“We will have about 2,400 acres of onions this year,” Kyle said. “We have been planting cabbage since late April and will continue planting through August. Cucumbers, green beans, squashes and our potatoes are also being planted on our normal schedule. We do not expect any significant changes in our acreages for the coming season.”
With the current labor situations affecting supplies, materials, transportation and every aspect of the company’s supply chain, Kyle noted it’s much too costly to put any extra in the ground without being sure on where it’s home will be or how to get it harvested.
Plus, the weather in June has been hot and dry, affecting the start of the season.
“If you had asked in March, I would have thought we were going to have an exceptionally early start out of Western New York, but April and much of May gave us a reality check with much cooler weather throughout the months,” Kyle said. “With that, we currently expect a normal start for our fresh vegetable season between July 10-15. Onions in early August.”
Torrey Farms has a good diversity of customers up and down the East Coast and west to Chicago.
“That’s critical for being able to market the diversity of our crops,” Kyle said. “We ship 70 percent to the retail channels, the balance being to wholesalers and food service providers.”