Willard, Ohio-based Wiers Farm Inc. is starting test production of brussels sprouts and miniature sweet peppers.

Wiers Farm crops are marketed under the Dutch Maid label.

“We’ll be raising approximately four acres of brussels sprouts this year for some specific customers who would like us to trial those,” said Ben Wiers, president. “It’s definitely out of our box, not something that we’ve normally grown.”

“It’s a crop that prefers cooler temperatures, and we understand that,” he said. “In Ohio, the season can be warm and heat units too high, but we’ll see what we can do. We’ll have enough volume to service a couple of our customers who have requested it in the past. If we can make a quality crop, it’s a business we’d want to grow.”

The brussels sprouts idea was in the air for a while, but 2014 proved to offer the most suitable timing yet to pursue the standards the company expects of the crop, Wiers said.

The sweet mini pepper trial will run to about 6 acres — two each for red, yellow and orange varieties. It’s been a few years since Wiers Farm last grew sweet minis.

“I had about a three-year stint of growing them,” he said. “So I know we can do that. Now that our marketing team was able to put together something that excited us with one of our customers, we’re going to get back in the game.”

Wiers Farm expected to kick off radish production May 26, followed by lettuces June 10-15; green onions around June 15; and cucumbers July 1. Sweet corn is likely to start July 15-18, with peppers arriving close to Aug. 1. In addition to bells, the grower-shipper offers jalapenos, poblanos, serranos and anaheims.

“For multiple cropping, we’re over 3,000 acres,” Wiers said.

He expects bell pepper yields to be up 20% to 25% over last year, a weather-diminished crop.

“The biggest thing that we struggled with (then) was zucchini and yellow squash,” Wiers said. “We also struggled with bell peppers. Last year we were at 60% of our yield numbers. We had hail. We had heavy rain, which created some disease pressures we normally don’t see. If we avoid hail and some of the extreme wet conditions, we should be back to normal supplies on our bell pepper crop.”

Sweet corn and lettuce yields last year were within normal ranges, something the company would be happy to repeat.

As of mid-May, Wiers Farm was running three to seven days behind usual harvest start dates. A burst of cool, wet weather was the culprit.

“We’ve definitely been struggling with moisture issues,” Wiers said. “We just seem to get a half inch at a time that keeps the ground a little too moist for doing some of the field work, but we’ve been able to get in on and off, so we do have supplies out there.”

While the quantities have not been what they normally prefer, Wier said because of the cooler weather supplies probably would have bunched up and grown too close together with greater volume.

“If we get some good heat units here in the next month we should be able to play some catch-up on the harvest dates,” he said.

Mike Hornick