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Non-GMO Olathe-area sweet corn available from Ringer & Son

COMMERCE CITY, CO — Excitement was building in mid-June for the first loads of Colorado’s famed Olathe-area sweet corn, on schedule to start shipping early to mid-July from the state’s Western Slope.

Joshua Johnson, president of Ringer & Son Brokerage and the “go-to guy” for sister company Mountain Fresh’s sweet corn, said this year’s crop was expected to be very good — and non-GMO.

“The season should be great,” Johnson said. “Our growers, Mike Ahlberg and his sons, Seth and Zach, have maintained steady acreage for several years, growing all non-GMO sweet corn. In fact, to my knowledge nothing we carry is GMO.”

The Olathe-area sweet corn is mostly bi-colored and yellow this season, and Johnson said much of the summertime treat stays inside Colorado. Out-of-state shipments go mainly to the South and East, he said.

“It looks like a normal shipping season at this point, starting early to mid-July and running through mid-September,” he continued. Large chain customers include Albertsons, Basha’s and Kroger, and Johnson said organic sweet corn is available on request.

The packingshed, located near Delta, CO, features both hydrocoolers and ice clamshells, Johnson said, and the operation provides a larger-sized box to accommodate 48 ears of corn in late season.

Handling Western Slope peaches and pears is sales agent Debbie Pate, who said peach volume from the Palisade area is up overall for 2014.

“We’ll have early July Garnet Haven variety, and around July 23 we’ll start our Red Havens,” she said. Pate said the season will slow down the first week of August but will pick up with later varieties mid-month and run into September.

Bartlett pears from the Western Slope will start Aug. 10-12 and run into late fall.

Items from Colorado’s northern Front Range and lower Arkansas Valley are handled by Gene Schneider, who said acreage is up this year for Rocky Ford-area cantaloupe and melons. Grower Mike Hirakata supplies Ringer with cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelons.

“Most crops are two to three weeks late at this point,” he said in June. “We had the coldest spring I can remember in a long time, and crops have not been maturing at the same rate they generally do.”

Schneider continued, “We’re hoping for the week of July 21 for our cantaloupe and melons to start. The first weeks could be sporadic, but the season will straighten out, and the melons that were in the later plantings will start in September.”

Loads will continue until freeze, he said.

The Front Range north of Denver produces onions, sweet corn, cabbage, broccoli, cucumbers, soft squash, carrots and leafy greens. The leafy green season had ended by mid-June, and Schneider said mid-July would see the start of sweet corn and other items.

“Carrots will be more toward July 20,” he said. “Onions will start the first or second week of August.”

He said, “As of today, Colorado is looking at a very good crop, and I think the markets and yields will be very good.”

Sales agent Matthew Lee works the potato desk, and he said Colorado supplies have been good.

“We’ll have supplies through the summer with no gaps this year,” he said. Working with RPE, which has an office and packingsheds in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, Lee said local supplies will run through the first of August, at which time Kansas and Nebraska spuds will come off. Colorado’s new crop is expected to start shipping in September.

“Growing conditions have been good, and fields look very nice,” he said of San Luis Valley spuds. “The fields that were planted first are on schedule to have closed rows by the 4th of July, with everything else within the week after.”

He noted that labor, a hot- button topic in other areas, “does not seem to be an issue at this time,” and he said, “The sheds and farms all seem to have a sufficient amount of help.”

Water is a critical factor in Colorado, and the San Luis Valley is particularly hard-hit.

“The snow pack was below average again for the valley this winter, so that doesn’t bode well for future crops, either. But irrigation will go on as planned, with guys cutting back as much as they can to get by,” Lee said.

Lee is also building the organic side of Ringer’s manifest and said he’s working with shippers out of California.

“Leafy veg, stone fruit and some berry business are the core areas … of our budding organic business,” he said.

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January 21, 2021

The Wall Street Journal's Global Food Forum next meets on Tuesday, February 9, gathering leaders in agribusiness, food production, consumer products, economics and government to focus on how the… Read More

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