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Spring is cropping up at Weis-Buy Farms

After a rough winter throughout the nation depressed produce sales, officials at Weis-Buy Farms are gearing up for a sunny spring.

“This has been a strange year for produce as the El Niño effect of wet, warm to cool but not freezing weather has engulfed the East Coast and caused cold and freezing weather in the Far West and Mexico,” Charles (Chuck) Weisinger, founder and chief executive officer of Fort Myers, FL-based Weis-Buy Farms told The Produce News. “Floods in the Midwest have cut sales for produce [in March] as people cared more for saving their homes than having another Caprese salad.”

Weisinger noted that spring has finally arrived and as a result, Weis-Buy is beginning to see that lack of demand for produce return to more normal levels.

tomatoes “One of our challenges has been the lack of Florida produce acreage to cover the coming spring demand and the fact that the warmer weather has pushed crops into the harvest stage earlier, possibly producing a ‘skip’ between the Florida and Georgia harvest of the tomatoes, peppers and spring vegetables we sell for [April]. Lesser volume usually leads to higher prices and more demand,” Weisinger said.

“As we have farmed in the past and we are not involved yet in growing this year, we are really concerned about supplies for our customer base,” he added.

With six salesmen working in its offices in Fort Myers, McAllen, TX, and Nogales, AZ, Weis-Buy Farms is able to cover the United States with pricing and vertical supply sales of most perishable products that do not require icing to preserve them.

“At the present time we cover Canada and have concentrated our efforts in the East and Midwest contiguous states east of the Mississippi River,” Weisinger said. “With Florida as the fourth largest state in the Union, we find that a good portion of sales never leave the Sunshine State.”

Weis-Buy deals with a wide variety of spring crops, including potatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuces and other greens, but it is tomatoes on which the company hangs its hat.

Weis-Buy sources tomatoes 12 months a year, so company officials know where to buy the best quality for the best price, following its growers and packers seasonally as production moves from Florida up north and out west. This allows Weis-Buy Farms to advise its customers where the best tomatoes are when they need them. Among the tomatoes offered year-round by Weis-Buy are Roma, grape, cherry and on-the-vine.

During the winter months, Weis-Buy Farms sources its tomatoes from Florida and Mexico; in the summer it ships from Canada, California and many eastern states. Tomatoes are field-grown on stakes in Florida, but are grown without stakes in California. Round tomatoes are sold as mature greens and vine ripened. Mexican tomatoes are greenhouse-grown “vine ripes,” while in Canada, tomatoes are grown in hothouses.

Weisinger, along with his two senior salesmen, Jack Goldstein and Arthur Ellis, have been in the business for decades and their expertise has given them an oversight into trends and volume production on produce from most of the growing areas. “We have been able to find trucks, produce, and remain friends with quality shippers that have given us both enough product but also a very salable product that can be shipped on a timely and cost efficient basis,” Weisinger said.

Over the years, Weis-Buy Farms has extended its sourcing to overseas.

“We, at Weis-Buy Farms, have changed with the times as well, bringing in labor intensive produce that is not economically feasible to grow in the U.S. from other countries,” Weisinger explained. “Some examples include our Primus certified hothouse colored pepper, cucumbers, watermelon and specialty peppers that we sell for our grower/partners here in the U.S. We also pay the taxes and duties that help our ports in Florida prosper and expand. When economically feasible, we have even flown produce into Miami for faster farm to table delivery.”

Weisinger’s roots in the produce industry run deep. After graduating college and marrying at age 22, he and his wife moved to Immokalee, FL, where she became a school teacher and he went to work for Six L’s Packing Co., a major shipper of cured green tomatoes. He retired in 1991 and took a year off before founding Weis-Buy Farms, selling tomatoes and importing produce from Central and South America, including cantaloupes, honeydews, tomatoes, peppers and other items.

“We look at the future of the produce business with optimism. Even though less than one percent of the nation feeds the other 99-percent that does not farm, that one percent has exponentially increased their yields year after year, and given us a safer more flavorful product as well,” Weisinger said.