D’Ottavio’s blueberry program is right on track

DOttavio108VINELAND, NJ — The extensive blueberry program that M. D’Ottavio Produce Inc. launched last year is right on track, according to company President Michael D’Ottavio. If all goes as planned, he will harvest his first crop of New Jersey blueberries in the summer of 2016, fulfilling a dream that he has had for more than 10 years.

The company should have about 33 acres of blueberries for that first harvest in 2016, with another 20 acres the year after that, “and more to follow,” he told The Produce News May 17. His goal is to add about 20 acres each year until he reaches a total of about 100 acres of Jersey blues, one of the Garden State’s signature summertime items.

DOttavio1087Michael D’Ottavio with some blueberry plants that should be part of the company’s first blueberry harvest in two years. (Photo by Gordon M. Hochberg)For now, “With a slow start to the Jersey season, we’re spending our extra time on preparing the ground on our third blueberry farm,” he said. “[We’re] working very closely with Fall Creek Nursery to figure out the next variety of blueberry plants [that] will work best in the soil we’re preparing. The other two farms look great.”

He continued, “Teaming up together with Lee Rain Irrigation, Muzzarelli Farms and Fall Creek, last fall’s plants are thriving. Nature Eye Irrigation System is working very well for us. Giving us the ability to feed and water the plants only when they need it allows us to help conserve water and fuel usage and also in the future increase yields.”

D’Ottavio said that the company is “also in the process of offering our customers a bagged assortment of vegetables in a high-graphic plastic bag. Our goals with the bags are to help the customer save money with a value-pack that will have enough product for a home-cooked meal [as well as] giving the customer the ability to speed up their shopping experience with a package that’s all ready for them to grab and go. They will be available in the next few weeks.”

The long and harsh winter of 2013-14 in New Jersey and most areas in the eastern United States has pushed back the start dates for virtually all vegetables in New Jersey, although D’Ottavio noted that quality is high. For example, “Weather has been ideal for lettuce,” he said, and “quality on everything is outstanding.”

In addition, he has seen “really good demand” on vegetables harvested so far [mid-May], and “everything’s bringing money,” he said. “It’s a good start to the season.”

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