Produce sales near, far discussed with growers

Managing Editor

HARRINGTON, Del. — (Jan. 20, 2015) During Delaware Agricluture Week’s vegetable sessions, growers heard about opportunities to market products close to home and abroad.
Beth Pomper, sales director for the Delaware Department of State, urged growers to consider export opportunities to Canada and Bermuda while Calvin Musser of the Laurel Farmer’s Auction Market talked about changes made to accommodate smaller growers and a wider variety of products.
While focusing mainly on Canada, Pomper said Bermuda may be a small market to export to but can be relatively easy with shipments leaving New Jersey’s port weekly.
Canada also has advantages to Delaware and the region with 80 percent of the Canadians living along its U.S. border — a nine-hour truck ride from the Mid-Atlantic — and most of those people near the East Coast.
And research shows Canadians have added 11 percent more vegetables to their diet in the last two years.
“Fortunately we’re on the right coast to increase the business,” Pomper said.
Canada has a $97 billion processing vegetable industry and most of it is located in and around Toronto, she told the group of farmers at the Exhibit Hall at the Delaware State Fairgrounds.
Potatoes leads all U.S. vegetable crops sold to Canada but a significant amount of watermelons, including loads from Delaware and Maryland farms, is sent there from the United States.
Pomper said she’s organizing a trade mission to Ontario and Quebec in March and needs farmers interested in exporting to Canada to be part of the trip meeting with fruit and vegetable buyers.
Farmers interested in going on the trip can contact Pomper at 302-577-8465.
Pomper added that there is additional funding assistance available to help growers meet labeling and grading requirements for exporting products.
“Don’t be scared,” she said. “There is paperwork and requirements but I can help you with that.”
Closer to home, Musser said the Laurel auction, widely known as “the block” is entering its 75th year and after expanding its serves for buyers and grower, sales have doubled in the last two years.
Adding a bin and box lot area in 2013 offered more opportunity to smaller growers, Musser said, and brought in more variety beyond the auction’s longtime stapes of cantaloupe and watermelons.
The auction also started a store for packaging supplies to move and display produce.
“Musser said using quality packaging often makes a difference with buyers and urged growers to not to bring products in damaged or dirty bins or boxes.
“Our buyers today want to take the product from our location and put it on the shelf or on the store floor.
They don’t want to handle it two or three times like they used to,” Musser said.
“That reflects on how you grow your product,” he said.
Musser also extended the selling period from past years.
This year, the block is scheduled to open June 10 selling on Mondays and Fridays until July 6 wherein it will be open six days a week through Sept. 5 and then going back to Mondays and Fridays until Oct. 16.
“Whatever a farmer produces, we’ll sell it for you,” Musser said.