Growers expect normal seasons for the Mid-Atlantic regionâs watermelon, peaches and blueberries.
The region is a major peach and watermelon producer and in recent years has become larger in blueberry production.
Delaware and Maryland watermelon production normally begins in mid-July and runs through mid- to late September after Georgia normally finishes and after South Carolina and North Carolina start.
South Carolina begins peach harvesting by early June, with Virginia starting in mid-June.
North Carolina blueberry harvesting typically starts in late May and runs through late July.
Maryland and Delaware watermelon growers say they expect their season to start on time to up to a week later than normal.
Growers in those regions began transplants in late April and were expected to continue plantings through mid-June.
After receiving record rains last summer, the Maryland and Delaware deals look to remain on pace for a normal season, said Will Hales, partner with Coastal Growers LLC, Salisbury, Md.
Courtesy Coastal Growers
Will Hales (left), partner with Coastal Growers LLC, Salisbury, Md., and Travis Hastings, partner, with some watermelon.
âThe biggest thing for us is that weâre on the backside of the Fourth of July demand,â Hales said.
âIt always seems like thereâs a lull in action for two weeks after the Fourth because everyone has melons then and the stores have what they need. Hopefully, the Fourth is sunny and they blow melons out of their stores.â
Hales said prices after the Fourth of July tend to hold steady to what they were ahead of the holiday.
Coastal Growers, a partnership formed in 2008 by Hales Farms and Lakeside Farms, Laurel, Del., plans to ship up to 600 loads from 500 acres this season.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 24-inch bins per cwt. of red-flesh seedless watermelon from Florida in early June sold for $15-16 for 45s and $14-15 for 60s.
In Delaware, Maryland and the Eastern Shore of Virginia last year in late July, the USDA reported 24-inch bins per cwt. of red-flesh seedless 36s sold for $13-14, 45s, $14-15, and 60s, $12-14.
B&K Farms LLC, Rhodesdale, Md., which also harvests from Arcadia, Fla., expects to start harvesting in Ehrhardt, S.C., in late June and start its Maryland production July 18, a week later than last year.
Kay Harding, vice president, said prices normally drop during the transition from Georgia and South Carolina to Maryland and Delaware as many other regions, such as North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri, begin production.
She said B&K planned to finish south Florida production June 15 and ship from Florida and South Carolina to fill Fourth of July orders.
âTrucks could be scarce this year as truckers will want to ship out of South Carolina, where they can make more money with less travel,â Harding said.
âThis year, the deal should be really good because the customers are calling us wanting to know when we will get started. Thatâs always a good sign.â
While B&K normally finishes its Maryland production in late August, this season, the grower-shipper plans to plant some later varieties that should keep it in production until Labor Day, Harding said.
M.G. Ford, president of M.G. Ford Produce Inc., LaBelle, Fla., said he expects to start his Laurel harvesting July 12.
âIt looks like we will have a good growing deal this year,â he said in late April. âWe can usually do really well because the freight is so much cheaper from Delaware than from North Carolina.â
Buyers can expect an earlier than normal peach crop this season.
An early bloom and warm weather should help size the crop well and produce larger volumes, said Kurt Schweitzer, co-owner of Keystone Fruit Marketing Inc., Greencastle, Pa.
A warm spring accompanied by favorable growing conditions was expected to start South Carolina harvesting in late May and early June, a week earlier than usual.
Virginia, which is also expected to start a week early, in mid- to late June, like South Carolina normally runs through the end of August, Schweitzer said.
Courtesy Keystone Fruit Marketing
Buyers can expect an earlier than normal Mid-Atlantic peach crop this season.
Schweitzer said the larger sizes should allow for many promotion options with supermarkets and club stores.
âWith a big crop, this yearâs pricing will be dependent upon the pack,â he said in early May. âThey will be priced to sell and will be promoted throughout the summer season. We expect very good movement and lots of promotion.â
Schweitzer in early May said he was already receiving a high volume of inquiries to set up promotions through the Fourth of July.
Cotton Hope Farms, Monetta, S.C., which markets its peaches through Sunny Valley International Inc., Glassboro, N.J., planned to start harvesting May 20-21, about a week behind normal, said Phil Neary, Sunny Valleyâs director of operations and grower relations.
South Carolina, which has only shipped one normal crop since 2006, should ship many cartons this year, Neary said in mid-May.
âSouth Carolina had a real good winter as far as the trees going dormant,â he said.
âIt had plenty of chill hours. Overall, the crop looks very healthy. It has not had frost damage as it has had during the last couple of years. It should make for a nice, predictable crop.â
Also expected to start one to two weeks ahead of schedule, Pennsylvania and West Virginia harvesting normally begins in late July and runs through mid-September.
New Jersey production is expected to start up to 10 days earlier than normal, Neary said.
As production increases to match growing demand, Mid-Atlantic blueberry growers expect another strong season.
Because of weather delays, the season began later than normal in south and central Florida and continued to see late starts in Georgia before North Carolina production was expected to start in volume in late May, said Rod Bangert, general manager of the Carolina Blueberry Cooperative Association Inc., Garland, N.C.
North Carolina harvesting runs through late July and New Jersey starts in mid-June.
âLooks like we will see an excellent crop all across the board,â Bangert said in mid-May. âThere is a lot of demand out there for the blueberries and there should be a lot more product.â
The cooperative sells for 27 growers