Page 52 - December2018
P. 52

Texas growers and shippers also find willing customers among Lone Star state residents eager to support their local farmers by purchasing fruits and vegeta- bles grown just down the road.
“Our main commodities are zucchini, yellow squash and purple top turnips,” says Bernie Thiel, who has grown vegetables and fruits outside Lubbock, TX, under the Sunburst Farms name for nearly half a century. “During the summer months, we mostly stay in Texas. With Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio there are plenty of customers. We have H-E-B, Safeway, Albertson’s, Berkshire Brothers. They promote it as from Texas. We have a sign in the store that says Locally Grown.”
Texas’ population hit the 28 million mark in 2018, according to U.S. Census estimates, and has the third highest growth population rate of all the states at 1.8 percent per year.
The San Antonio-based H-E-B super- market chain paralleled that growth to reach 350 stores throughout the state.
Although most of Thiel’s ground is in squash grown under the Sunburst Farms name and shipped throughout the state, he has had success restoring the more personal connections of bygone days devoting modest acreage to produce sold directly to the public at his farm stand.
“The stand’s doing great; I think we pick up some customers every year,” says Thiel. “It’s probably 10 to 15 percent of our harvest The bulk of the customers are repeaters; some of them come two
or three times a week, or even more. A bunch of it is repeat customers, but we get new ones every year.”
Although J & D Produce, Edinburg, TX, supplies retailers the length of the Eastern Seaboard with peppers, melons, dry onions, tropicals and a full range of leafy greens grown in the rich Rio Grande soil under the winter sun, the company also benefits from the recent interest in local produce.
“The Texas share of our sales has probably increased 5 percent the past three to five years,” says Jeff Brechler, sales and production representative at J & D. “There seems to be more support for local produce, and we have the Go Texan label on most items.”
The Texas Department of Agricul- ture Go Texan program provides a logo, shaped like the state, social and broad- cast media, promotional signage, and in-store demos of a broad range of products grown, served on a plate, or sewn (yes, they do quilts), to promote sales throughout the state and around the world.
Even shippers whose main role is supplying fruits and vegetables grown in Mexico to the Eastern half of the US during the stormier time of year benefit from Texan pride in local produce.
“We’re really strong in our rela- tions with retailers in Texas, and prob- ably 40 percent of our tomatoes stay in the state,” says Jaime Garcia, general manager at Kingdom Fresh. “We grow in Mexico and come through Donna, TX, which is five miles away from McAllen. We sell 75 to 90 percent in the U.S.” pb
green vegetables in the middle of winter may depend on the weather in the Rio Grande Valley.
“ e 2018-2019 vegetable season will conclude in the middle of April, and this season supply will be trying at least through the holidays,” says Brechler. “Right at the time of planting, we had more and heavier rains than we usually do.  e entire valley, including the Winter Garden area west of San Antonio, has been getting heavier rains. It made for di culty with planting schedules, which will lead to di culty with availability later.”
Other shippers also ran into delays planting their greens that could lead to winter supply gaps.
“ e Texas greens are o  to a much slower start,” says Galeazzi. “Quality has been good on product that has come out of the  elds so far, but because of the slow start and weather, some of the areas are reporting lower yields, and we may continue to see low yields throughout November on some vari- eties, and perhaps much longer on others. We also foresee Texas cabbage being in high demand for November through January, because of the hurricane damages in Florida and Georgia.”
 e wet weather may also diminish the supply of onions from Texas, but it is too early to know for certain.
“With regards to Texas onions, the rain came right in the middle of plantings,” says Galeazzi. “We had some onions get in the ground ahead of the storms, but everyone is out there right now trying to catch up on plantings. We expect this will cause some of our growers to plant a little less acreage on onions this season, although it’s tough to judge the overall impact until we wrap up with plantings.”
Because most consumers want both fruits and vegetables from the farm just down the street and availability of everything from kale to tomatoes when it is snowing outside, many Texas shippers are both helped and hurt by the combination of global and local markets.
“ e market gets complicated in the summer because some of the competition is a half-hour from the store,” says Jaime Garcia, general manager at Kingdom Fresh, Donna, TX. “But when the hurricanes come through quality becomes No. 2, because availability is No. 1.”
Kingdom Fresh ships Roma, grape and vine ripe tomatoes from 500 acres of green- houses built over the past 15 years southeast

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