New programs and upgrades to existing ones rank among the highlights this year for Wiers Farm Inc./Dutch Maid.

For starters, Willard, Ohio-based Wiers is growing eggplant this year in Ohio, said Jim Wiers, president.

The company grows it at its Florida location, and packs it for other growers, Wiers said. With the addition of the Ohio acreage, Wiers Farms will get closer to year-round coverage.

“We sell a lot of eggplant,” he said. “It’s time we started to grow some of it. We’re moving more toward a 12-month supply on items we can grow both places.”

Year-round coverage on other commodities has been a huge boon for the company, Wiers said.

“Our northern operation is benefiting dramatically from Florida,” he said. “We’ll be in a situation this year where we will have had peppers in Florida this from October to June, we’ll be challenged a bit in July, but then have them (in Ohio) from August to October.”
Also new at Wiers Farm, at the request of a customer, the company this year will sticker its bulk bell peppers with GTIN number labels, Wiers said.

The labels also will have Price Look-Up numbers, a brand name and “made in the U.S.” language, Wiers said.

“It’s a pretty condensed little label,” he said. “We have the ability to do it on other commodities, and we’ll do it if asked.”

Such labels are the future, Wiers said. All the commodities that can take the labels without having them fall off will get them, he predicted. Among the harder to make work are cucumbers zucchinis and yellow squash, he said.

Radishes, beets, cilantro and others are among the other Ohio-grown commodities that the labels could probably work on, he said.

New technologies will likely be found for even the harder-to-sticker vegetables, though, Wiers predicted. The looming question is: Who will pay for it?

“I’m sure that with them being mandated, there will be ways to get it done in the near future,” he said. “The trouble is, they want it to be free.”

Speaking of new technologies, Wiers Farm has installed new monitors to regulate temperatures in all of the company’s precoolers and coolers this season, Wiers said. Alarms will go off if the temperature of product strays from its optimal range.

The company also is relying more on technology for planting and tractor guidance.
“Satellite tractor guidance allows us to take full advantage of the acreage that’s there,” Wiers said.

The accuracy of tractor guidance could yield up to 100 extra plants per acre, he said. The company also expects to save money on fertilizer and chemicals.

“If we want to affect the bottom line in today’s marketplace, we can be more efficient in controlling costs than in increasing the price,” he said. “In this environment, there aren’t a lot of people standing in line offering more money.”

Also new this year at Wiers Farm, the company has added 12 trailers and 10 tractors to the fleet of its sister company, Dutch Maid Logistics.

“We’re seeing that trucks are a real premium out of Florida, and having the ability to load on our own trucks, having our drivers produce-trained and monitoring their progress at all times by GPS and two-way is a tremendous advantage,” he said.
Dutch Maid Logistics now has 100 tractors and 200 trailers, Wiers said.