(Oct. 29) OXNARD, Calif. — The start of the celery harvest in Ventura County, California’s largest celery producer, shouldn’t be hampered by the wildfire known as the Simi Valley fire, which started in Piru.

Early harvest started the week of Oct. 27, and more shippers will enter the market the following week, planting and harvesting celery through June and into July.

Warm weather has pushed harvest dates ahead slightly, but shippers don’t expect the yield problems that the Santa Maria celery is seeing, said David Cook, sales manager for Deardorff-Jackson Co., Oxnard.

“We’re getting some 30s, 36s from there, and very few 24s,” Cook said about the Santa Maria acreage. “It looks like that might hold true for a while and affect Thanksgiving prices a bit, but it won’t be out of line and celery will be available.”

Supplies of larger sizes, 1 ½ dozen per carton, from Salinas/Watsonville and Santa Maria districts were too insufficient to quote a price, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on Oct. 28. Cartons of two dozen from the two areas were $12-13.20, cartons of 3 dozen were $10.10-11.25 and cartons of 4 dozen were $9.10-10.25 from Salinas and $8.20-10.25 from Santa Maria.

California’s celery crop won’t see the pre-Thanksgiving and Christmas oversupply of recent years, but there will be adequate production to fill orders, Cook said.

“We’ll harvest celery from early November through mid-June,” said Danny Pereira, ranch manager for Rio Farms, Oxnard. “It’s hard to tell, but we’ll be planting through March, and as of now, the size looks to be decent and we’ll make budgeted yields.”

Cook said Deardorff-Jackson started a tomato program this July, packing at the Fillmore-Piru Citrus Association facility at Piru. On Oct. 25, the packing line was shut down when fire crews ordered people to leave the area of the nearby fire.

“There are fires around us in the hills, but we’re down in a flat area, and don’t have any fire damage,” Cook said on Oct. 28. “ … Transportation has been disrupted, but I think we’ll be out of it by this weekend.”

Cook and Pereira said cabbage markets are strong. Deardorff-Jackson started red cabbage harvest in late October. Cauliflower harvest also started in Ventura County in late October.

“We started with the early varieties, and we’ll have steady supplies through May and June,” Cook said. “It’s good looking, and there’s interest in pricing them for ads.”

Oxnard’s cabbage was priced at $12.25-12.35 for 45-pound cartons of round green mediums, and $10.35-12.35 for cartons of red mediums, the USDA reported on Oct. 28. Cauliflower movement in the Salinas area is expected to increase, the USDA reported, with cartons of film-wrapped 12s $5.10-6.35, 9s $4.60-5.60 and 16s $4.10-5.35.

Brian Donovan, sales and marketing director for West Valley Growers Inc., Oxnard, said romaine prices are higher than normal, as well as leaf lettuce, which hit a gap in late October, but picked back up before the end of the month.

“We had a market of $10-12, but last week it was as high up as $20,” for cartons of Romaine, Donovan said on Oct. 28. “That was with the Imperial Valley not being in it at this time and Santa Maria winding down.”