CEDARVILLE, N.J. — Garden State grower-shippers started this season’s harvest a couple of weeks earlier than normal. Warm weather accelerated production and helped grower-shippers begin volume shipments ahead of schedule. Grower-shippers began shipments of lettuce and asparagus in late March, about two weeks early. “We’ve compared the numbers to prior years and this is a warm welcome,” Tom Consalo, director of sales for Vineland-based Freshwave Fruit & Produce LLC, said in early May. “For us to be as busy as we are at this time of the year has been unprecedented.” Consalo said cooler early May weather, which followed a warmer-than-normal March and April, helped harden commodities such as lettuce and should aid in shelf life and transportation. New Jersey ships from two seasons. The early spring sees asparagus and lettuce production, June and July usually begins production of bell peppers, cucumbers, squash, green beans, tomatoes, blueberries and peaches. Bill Nardelli, president of Nardelli Bros. Inc., said the warm spring and cooler and drier growing conditions are helping lettuce. “The production has been good,” he said in early May. “Mother Nature has been favorable to us up to this point. We’ve had no major weather events to inhibit or curtail production. We are coming off a warm spring and will go into a good summer.” Eastern Fresh Growers Inc. began harvesting asparagus March 27, said Tom Sheppard, president. He said warmer weather prompted Eastern Fresh to ship volume quantities in late April. “We had May temperatures in March,” Sheppard said in early May. “Now we are back to seasonal May temperatures. The quality looks good.” In early May, Sheppard quoted $48-52 for 28-pound pyramid cartons and crates of bunched green asparagus. Sun Valley Orchards LLC, Swedesboro, finished its first plantings of bell peppers, cucumbers and squash by early May. Joe Marino, director of sales and marketing, said growers look for a strong season. “The market now seems average for this time of the year,” he said May 7. “The market is average to low on zucchini squash, where we like to see up to $10 or better. When regions are up to full production, you see $6-7 f.o.b. pricing on squash." The U.S. Department of Agriculture in early May wasn’t reporting New Jersey prices. It reported $12.50-13.85 for cartons of 24s of escarole from California’s central coast while cartons of bunched 60s curly parsley from the same growing region was selling for $8.35-9.
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