President's Letter: I Hear Harvest 2022 Went Pretty Well

I have heard this common theme from a number of growers. The 2022 season was described as “decent,” “an OK year,” or “I’m pretty happy with the season.”  Not bad praise coming from a bunch of farmers. 

Florida crop reporting pegged the volume at north of 24,000,000 pounds, a solid year. Early prices were good, and a lot of Florida fruit came off in that window.  Chilean fruit production has been suffering recently, plus the delays from supply chain bottlenecks hurt their quality to the point where marketers and grocers were anxious to get our high-quality first picks. Though prices began their typical post-Easter decline, the downward slope was less severe than in some years until later April when the ever-growing Mexican imports merged with a smaller delayed crop from Georgia.  Certainly, the late freezes in parts of Georgia lessened the typical volume peak that can crash pricing. What will happen next year if Georgia dodges late freezes and Mexico continues its expansion into our market window? I guess we’ll find out.

Evergreen operations with new low-chill varieties did quite well. Our more southerly Florida farms picked good volume in Florida’s desirable early season. The recent plantings of varieties like Arcadia and Avanti are maturing and starting to make a strong positive impact on volume and revenue.  

I also heard from some folks who had good success with stalwart varieties like Emerald and Jewel. Despite some concerns with Dormex damage, growers I spoke with ended up with some heavy crops at decent prices. For the most part, the numerous frosts in parts of Florida caused little crop reduction. Our growers are experienced with frost protection and were well prepared.

Disease pressure was fairly subdued, though Anthracnose fruit rot showed up on some farms. SWD has not disappeared, so many growers continue to defend against this pest that plagues farms as the season advances and weather becomes warmer and more unstable. Some Central Florida growers (like us) were forced to suppress chilli thrips and spider mites even while focused on the harvest. Central Florida weather was warm enough and dry enough to promote insect populations.  

Picking labor was generally available, and folks were able to get their crops off the field. The serious health concerns of Covid finally subsided, so harvest activities were able to move forward with less stress. However, the blueberry industry is not immune to the geopolitical world and the economy.  It was really challenging to get trucking and truck drivers lined up and committed. Reefers are in short supply and driver pay is bidding up.  Don’t count on a reprieve from supply constraints and cost increases next season, so it’s best to plan way ahead to lock in the resources you need before harvest.

As for Frogmore, our farm in Central Florida, we did better than we expected going into March. If you read my letter in the Spring edition of The Blueberry News, you might remember I had concerns with our economy (inflation, war in Ukraine, the supply chain). And Mother Nature seemed against us (too few chill hours early, then cold freezes came later, which seemed to confuse flowering and the crop).  After all was said and done, we just made our volume plan. We hand-picked more early fruit, then kept machines picking past mid-May. For the most part harvest weather cooperated keeping fruit quality up and harvesting on schedule. We did have some Dormex damage from low chill in December, especially in our Farthing. Fortunately, I guess, many chilly late winter nights fostered an unexpected delayed second crop that made up for the shortfall we anticipated. And finally, our Meadowlark had its best pollination in years to put us over the top. Other growers seemed to experience the same atypical flowering episode.

Yes, costs were up: fuel, labor, fertilizer, and especially transportation. Fortunately, grocers seem to be coming around to the fact that customers really do want high-quality local fruit. Remind your marketer, and their grocers, that supporting Florida farms is good business this season and will be for years to come. We are here. We have blueberries when they need them. We have really fresh fruit that tastes great.  It’s nice to know consumers really do want Florida blueberries!

Share this post:

Comments on "President's Letter: I Hear Harvest 2022 Went Pretty Well"

Comments 0-5 of 0

Please login to comment