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Summer Stock: Sweet corn and berries

bp sweet corn twin garden

For Mark Hayes, president of Harvard, IL-based grower-shipper Twin Garden Sales, Inc., BB #:119080, summer produce means sweet corn.

Sales start to pick up speed in late spring and go into overdrive during the summer months.

“As the season opens in April and May, that’s where the big volume is—May, June, and July,” explains Hayes. “In mid-July and August, it starts tapering down.”

The summer months, he notes, provide many opportunities for shoppers to purchase from a wide range of fresh categories. Enterprising cooks are helped along by food shows and food network promotions, all designed to educate and elevate consumption at the same time.

This is especially true for locally grown fruits and vegetables, as shoppers always gravitate towards them, and summer is prime time.

“Retailers have always pushed local,” Hayes says. “As a society, people will socialize more in the summer and lean more toward grilling and having parties versus fall, winter, and spring.”

While local can also mean regional, it’s still grown nearby, so consumers clamor for these seasonal “homegrown” treats, and suppliers are more than willing and eager to meet the demand.

Mike Fields, operations manager with American Fruit & Vegetable Company, Inc. in Rochester, NY, BB #:159286 mentions sweet corn and berries as among the distributor’s top summer treats.

“For anybody in the Northeast, the two biggest items everyone is looking for in local produce are corn and strawberries. Everyone will follow corn up the coast; every day starting in the middle of May we’ll be asked when we’ll have it.”

And don’t forget about berries, he says, as there are plenty of customers asking about them too. “When are homegrown strawberries and blueberries available?”

Fields says strawberry season in his region (upper New York state) usually runs early to end of June. “It all depends on the weather. If you have good hot days and cool nights, with minimal wind, you might get a full three weeks. But if it’s rainy and cold, you might be done in two.”

Blueberry season sometimes churns into August, he notes.

As its name suggests, berries are big at Cottle Strawberry Nursery, Inc. BB #:152781 in Faison, NC. Spring marks the debut of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries, according to Ron Cottle, president.

The grower-shipper sells to retail chains in the region.

“Everything we pack is in in clamshells, and this includes a really sweet, high-brix strawberry called Ruby Sweet,” he says. “Consumers put pressure on the chains to buy them.”

Strawberry season runs into the second or third week of June in North Carolina, while blueberries run from mid-May to mid-July, and blackberries from late May to mid-July, Cottle explains.

“We move a lot of blueberries and blackberries,” he says. “We also handle and distribute another 1,000 acres of blueberries that others grow.”

This an excerpt from a spotlight feature in the May/June 2022 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole issue.