Natural Foods Merchandiser

Early harvest ready for retailers

Every year, farmers hope their corn crop will be knee high by the Fourth of July. This summer the conditions were so perfect the corn was earlobe high by July and even fall crops like apples and pumpkins will be ready for stores long before the trees turn to gold.

“The conditions have been nearly ideal,” Julie Schmidt, a statistician with the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), told the Associated Press. According the NASS, commodity crops like corn, soy, wheat, rice and barley are plentiful and will be harvested in the Midwest about two weeks early.

Wisconsin and Massachusetts farmers say this year’s cranberry crop is the second largest in history. Across New England, apple farmers report a high quality crop that will be two weeks early. Also due to warm and dry conditions, other crops are ripening ahead of schedule including blueberries, pumpkins, winter squash, beans, beets, cucumbers, eggplant, greens, radishes, summer squash, sweet corn tomatoes and peppers.

Although this is good news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says it could present a challenge for retailers because of unexpected storage issues for seasonal items like pumpkins and winter squash, which are marketed later in the fall during Halloween and Thanksgiving. The only region that is behind schedule is the Central Coast of California where wine growers and produce farmers say a cool summer slowed the harvest. This could invite trouble later in the season if frost is forecasted.

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