Weather conditions across the Northeast were relatively favorable for vegetable growers in 2019, particularly compared to 2018’s excessive rainfall.
For the fresh market, yields have generally been good, but pricing has been rather volatile.
Those selling direct-to-consumer have done well this season, with good demand for product, and an increasing volume of younger consumers turning out at farm stands and markets.
Competition seems to have increased, particularly for lettuce and other leafy greens. Product recalls, while not directly implicating Northeast product, have affected markets for some greens, particularly romaine lettuce.
The availability and cost of seasonal farm labor continues to be a major issue for many vegetable growers. Unemployment is low, and several Northeast states have increased minimum wages, leading to higher costs. New York has passed mandatory overtime after 60 hours per week for farm workers, and to allow union organizing taking effect in 2020. Growers are nervous and uncertain about what next year will bring.
2019 yields have been average to above average, with growers being pleasantly surprised at overall yields despite a dry August.
Quality appears to be excellent as there was little disease pressure throughout the growing season. The french fry processing crop appears to have better specific gravity than the previous year, which should translate into improved price per cwt on the crop. A relatively warm fall also ensured excellent color quality on both the french fry and chipstock crop. The seed and tablestock crops also reported excellent yields and quality.
Market conditions continue to be favorable. A poor growing season for Idaho and other upper Midwest states, as well as Western Canada has left the market in short supply.
Processing contract volumes generally increased for the 2019 crop. Some of this is driven by increased export demand, which remains strong and is at levels not seen since 2012. Any open processing supplies will likely be purchased by processors in the area at contract prices or above.
Tablestock markets are currently above previous year levels in most areas. Seed markets also continue to see strong demand and prices are expected to remain at or above the previous year.