August 06, 2015

Drought and Heat Change the Game

The 2015 summer growing season continues to throw out curve balls. The ongoing drought in the western United States and multiple rounds of temperatures hitting the upper 90s are changing the rules of the fresh produce game. And it’s only early August!

Many growers are saying the normal rules just do not apply this year. Most crops are maturing early or failing in some degree ranging from a shortfall to a complete loss. The most recent was when Turlock Fruit Co., our California melon grower,  called last week and asked us to cancel our annual promotion of variety melons – their triple-digit heat wave had virtually shut down production. Dan Kerrigan at Turlock said this has been the most challenging season ever on their fourth-generation farm in 97 years of farming. Dan said they will have some random varieties of select melons come and go over the next few weeks and he promised to put us first in line for promotional opportunities as they come up (one of the reasons we develop deep relationships with our growers). Watch for these melons as they happen, because they will likely happen quickly and be gone before you know it.

Closer to home, we saw more blackberries than we knew what to do with in early July and then all of a sudden another blast of heat and the berries shut down. Jake Sterino, our grower in Puyallup, said everything is early and all at once. It seems like’s a feast-or-famine situation all around this year. His July red raspberries were all but non-existent, and the fall raspberries are ripening about three weeks early. The jury is out on supply here as well.

This unpredictability applies to all crops this year. We just heard from one of the Northwest growers of hard squash varieties, and they said this year’s crop is expected to be ready three to four weeks ahead of normal. Northwest green beans have been excellent as far as quality goes for what we can get, but the supply is inconsistent at best. The grower at Duris Farms in Puyallup said he things the repeated extreme heat spells we’ve had over the past couple months caused random bloom drop and that is contributing to the inconsistent yield.

Out of curiosity we wondered – what’s going on with the new crop of Northwest apples and pears? So we chatted with Nate Perkins at Chelan Fresh and he said it’s been interesting to say the least. It looks like we will start to see some varieties of new crop pears start to arrive this next week and apples shortly after that. The general consensus is that sizing is off one and a half sizes in pears, and two sizes in apples. That means we’ll see, generally, smaller fruit with a premium price for the larger sized fruit. At this point the abundance of hot weather is not helping the fruit to color up either. Nate does not think the quality has been affected, but appearance may present some challenges this season.

So in a nut shell,  it’s not the end of the world but we will be challenged and, as a general rule, things are starting early and are likely to end early as well.

The best news is that we have moved into the late-season varieties of seedless grapes. Grapes love hot weather! The varieties we will get over the next several weeks are extra large, sweet and crunchy. I believe August and September offer the best tasting grapes of the entire year.

Have a great week. – Joe

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