Growers in California’s Imperial Valley hope to have a good crop this spring, despite enduring a period of sustained winds that reached 50 miles per hour in early April.

“It was brutal,” said Daren Van Dyke, director of sales and marketing for Brawley-based Five Crowns Marketing. “The crops definitely took a beating.”

Corn crops were especially hard hit. Some stocks were knocked down while others may have suffered windburn and dehydration.

“We’ll have to see how things recover,” he said.

Growers were able to keep most of the damaged corn out the box, Van Dyke said.

Five Crowns started shipping corn out of the Imperial Valley on April 4 and planned to start its Coachella Valley deal by the end of April. Shipments should continue through May.

The good news is that above-normal temperatures helped increase the size of the corn and brought it on earlier.

“We’ve had above-normal temperatures for the last four weeks,” Van Dyke said in mid-April. “The corn has been unbelievable.”

Van Dyke did not expect major damage from the winds, but he said they could affect volume.

“(Winds) definitely affect our yields,” he said, but he remained optimistic overall. “I still think we’re very positive about a very good, promotable crop.”

Newport Beach, Calif.-based SunTerra Traders Inc., which has a sales office in Brawley, Calif., started shipping sweet corn April 5 and will continue until June 1, said Vince Viloria, salesman.


Jon Vessey, owner and president of Vessey & Co. Inc., Holtville, Calif., said he plans to start his Desert Queen label cantaloupes in mid-May, as usual.

“That crop is looking good,” he said, and was not affected by the wind.

He expects to have good-quality cantaloupe until the end of June.

Five Crowns’ first cantaloupes should come off the week of May 6, Van Dyke said.

Before the winds, the crop looked outstanding, he said, with big flowers and good sets.

“The winds beat it up and took a bit of the shine off of it,” he said, but he still anticipated good quality overall, though yields likely will be down.

Honeydew and mixed melons should start shortly after the cantaloupe.

Van Dyke expects “good, promotable numbers” for the company’s corn, cantaloupes, honeydews and variety melons by the week of May 13.

SunTerra will start shipping cantaloupe around May 10, Viloria said, and follow with watermelons a few days later.

Cantaloupes will be available for six weeks, and watermelons will wind down around July 1.

Quality should be good on all the company’s products.

“There are no known issues right now,” he said April 25.

Food safety has become an important concern for cantaloupe growers, Van Dyke said.

Five Crowns Marketing has been micro testing for pathogens in the fields for the past four years.

The company is a member of the Cantaloupe Advisory Board, which works with the Food and Drug
Administration as well as the state and will come out with a matrix outlining requirements for a certification process, he said.
“We want to present to the public that California is providing safe and certified fruit,” Van Dyke said.