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The Freshwave looks to handle more New Jersey blueberries this season

VINELAND, NJ — Consalo Family Farms is expecting to handle more New Jersey blueberries than it did last year, according to Tom Consalo, vice president of The Freshwave, which is the sole marketer of all products grown by Consalo Family Farms.

He also said that his company should have good, consistent supplies, with a few more berries toward the end of the Jersey season, thanks to some new varieties.

Following a record warm winter but a cold, rainy spring, the start of the crop now is “going to come in around average, around the 12th to 15th of June,” Consalo told The Produce News Thursday, May 26. “And by the end of that week, we’ll be into load volume and ad volume.”

Freshwavetom1Tom Consalo of The Freshwave in a company blueberry farm in Egg Harbor City, NJ, about half an hour east of Hammonton, NJ, last year.As to quality and volume of Jersey blueberries, “Right now we’ve gotten through the pollination process, and it looks to be an excellent looking crop,” he said. “Sizing is going to be good. Supply looks to be consistent, without the peaks and valleys” that sometime can occur because of weather issues.

Regarding The Freshwave’s 2015 New Jersey blueberry season, “We came in right around what we expected — about 9 millions pounds,” he said. For the coming season, “I see maybe a 10 percent increase.” This would come “not from new farms, but we’ll have some fields that will be harvested this year that come from our nursery.”

Past years have seen a pretty close 50-50 split between Duke variety and Bluecrop variety at The Freshwave, but this year should see a slight change.

In some prior years, there has sometimes been a gap between the end of Jersey blueberries and the start of blueberries from either Michigan or British Columbia, said Consalo. In response, “We have been able to implement some new varieties, more specifically some later varieties,” especially since “there’s a high demand for blueberries in August,” he said. “We had some good luck with the new later varieties last year, and we’re hoping to have increased production of those varieties this year.

So The Freshwave could see closer to 45 percent Duke, 45 percent Bluecrop and 10 percent later varieties in 2016, he said.

Regardless of the actual ratios, blueberries remain a vital aspect of The Freshwave, headquartered here. The company handles a full line of produce from all over the world, but blueberries are its key item, noted Consalo.

As such, the company has a comprehensive program in place to make sure that it has blueberries on hand to supply its customers virtually all year long.

It offers Chilean blueberries generally during January, February and March, moving to Georgia from around mid-April to the end of May. North Carolina usually has berries from around mid-May to mid-June. New Jersey historically is producing from mid-June to late August, with Michigan and British Columbia shipping from mid-August to mid-September. Argentina completes the cycle from around October into mid-December.

Blueberries actually make up about 50 percent of the company’s volume, and Jersey blues comprise 50 percent of that. So generally speaking, New Jersey blueberries represent about 25 percent of the company’s overall volume.

“It’s paramount for us,” he declared. “It’s our number one volume item, and it grows for us every year. We’re happy to have a strong crop of Jersey blueberries despite the cool, wet spring. There’s a sense of pride when handling local, New Jersey blueberries.”