The annual fall migration of vegetable production from California’s coastal areas to the desert regions has begun, but the transition period has lengthened in recent years with organic production tending to remain in the Central California region a bit longer.
And while both the organic and conventional vegetable markets have shown plenty of strength through much of the summer and the first half of fall, grower-shippers are not willing to predict the situation will remain the same as winter production increases.
Doug Classen, Vice President of Sales, The Nunes Company
“We’ll have to wait until we get to that point to see. On organics, it’s just too early to tell,” said Doug Classen, vice president of sales for The Nunes Company, Salinas, CA. He noted that summer heat and disease issues created the strong markets by decreasing vegetable supplies across the board. At this point, Classen said there is no indication that there will be issues with winter fields.
And while both the organic and conventional vegetable markets have shown plenty of strength through much of the summer and the first half of the fall, grower-shippers are not willing to predict the situation will remain the same as winter production increases.
Foxy iceberg lettuce from The Nunes Company
Nunes has transitioned its iceberg lettuce production from the Salinas Valley to Huron in the San Joaquin Valley, and its organic vegetable production season in Yerington, NV, has also ended. The company is sourcing most of its organic vegetables from the Salinas Valley currently as its Yuma, Arizona fields mature. Classen said for most organic vegetables, the shift to the desert will occur during the first week in November, but different items have different scenarios. For example, celery production will be shifting to Oxnard during the next couple of weeks.
Brian Peixoto, Sales Manager, Lakeside Organic Gardens
A little bit further north of the Salinas Valley, Lakeside Organic Gardens, Watsonville, CA, is still about five weeks away from transitioning its organic vegetable production from the Pajaro Valley to its production in California’s Imperial Valley. “We are anticipating our transition to the desert (Imperial Valley) starting the last week of November or the first week of December,” said Sales Manager Brian Peixoto. “Planned plantings are looking promising with great supplies on 1,100 acres.”
He added that the Thanksgiving pull will be coming from its California fields. “Supply is looking great for the run-up to Thanksgiving. We are looking very promising on cauliflower, celery, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, romaine, green and red leaf lettuce, and fennel. We are looking a little short on leeks.”
Lakeside Organic Gardens celery
Peixoto said the company currently has very solid production as it gears up for this time of year: “We have a lot of product; it's fall. We plan and plant for it as the rest of the country cools down in winter.”
“Supply is looking great for the run-up to Thanksgiving. We are looking very promising on cauliflower, celery, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, romaine, green and red leaf lettuce, and fennel. We are looking a little short on leeks.” -Brian Peixoto
Joe Angelo of Ocean Mist Farms, based in Castroville, CA, said organic artichoke production has transitioned from that self-designated artichoke capital of the world to Oxnard in Southern California. “The rest of our vegetable crops←both conventional and organic←will transition the weeks of November 16 or November 23. Consequently, most of the Thanksgiving pull will come from our fields up here (Castroville).”
He said the price on organic artichokes is a bit soft, but most other organic vegetables are in good demand with good supply. “Romaine hearts are probably the tightest item we have right now,” Angelo said this week.
Joe Angelo, Sales Manager, Ocean Mist Farms
The Ocean Mist sales manager echoed the comments of Classen and Peixoto in noting that this has been a very good summer and fall for both organic and conventional vegetables. “We’ve had good supplies and good demand. Any time you can take care of your customers’ needs and also have a strong market, it’s a win-win.”
He agreed that a combination of high temperatures and some disease problems impacted supply and helped sustain steady f.o.b. prices. Angelo said that for the most part there were no big peaks or valleys in the supply side, just good demand, buoyed by more cooking at home, that kept the markets strong.
Ocean Mist romaine hearts
“We’ve had good supplies and good demand. Any time you can take care of your customers’ needs and also have a strong market, it’s a win-win.” -Joe Angelo
He was reluctant to predict what the winter and holiday eating occasions would look like. “I can’t even begin to talk about what is normal,” Angelo quipped. “We don’t know what Thanksgiving is going to bring.”
While Thanksgiving is typically a big family holiday featuring lots of cooking and a solid demand for a wide variety of vegetables, it is hard to anticipate what will happen this year. With no clear argument to do anything different, Ocean Mist Farms' planting schedule is on par with past seasons.