Many of our plant customers have added a wholesale component to their berry operation. With the excellent demand for locally picked fruit, this is a great opportunity for growers to increase sales. Based on our experience, I believe there are several factors to consider:
A DEPENDABLE SOURCE OF LABOR
This is a challenging issue for all of agriculture these days and is an essential component that needs to be organized. Having a dependable crew of pickers means you will be a dependable supplier to your customers.
GOOD DISEASE CONTROL PROGRAM
Maintaining good quality fruit for your customers is important for keeping your customers. Incorporating an effective fungicide program is a good beginning step. Berry condition is maximized by maintaining a good harvest interval. Keep the fruit picked to avoid overripe berries which adds to disease pressure. We have achieved this by picking a block of fruit every other day. Under ideal conditions of dry weather and cooler temperatures, a three-day interval can work but you can’t always depend on those conditions to last in our experience.
Weather is a factor we cannot control and needs to be managed around. Manage your fungicide applications around forecasted conditions, particularly weather events like heavy rain. This you can control and along with maintaining harvest interval, will assist in keeping fruit quality.
REFRIGERATION OF FRUIT
If you are picking fruit for delivery and use that day, cooling the fruit is not as important. If you are holding fruit overnight for future deliveries, cooling is critical. We have found that picking fruit and delivering to the cooler throughout the day, helps maintain consistency. Removing the field heat reduces berry respiration and slows ripening. We set our cooler temperature at 34 degrees F.
GOOD COMMUNICATION IS ESSENTIAL
Maintaining good communications with customers is very important. There are so many factors that we can’t control, with changes and adjustment common. We have found that customers appreciate learning in advance, of changes to their order so they can plan accordingly. It doesn’t need to be complicated; a simple message or text will work to keep your customer informed.
Developing a wholesale component to your berry operation can increase sales and movement of berries. I believe there are some essential components to manage, as I have reviewed, to build a solid relationship with your customers.