Bret Erickson Showcases Little Bear Produce’s Strength
EDINBURG, TX - Weather is a major factor to consider for many, but the hurdles that Texan suppliers have faced over the past few months have been something of an odyssey to get through. Bret Erickson, Senior Vice President of Business Affairs, walks me through the trials and tribulations Little Bear Produce has faced down in South Texas.
“We’ve been able to meet our customers’ needs, and we’re finding ways to slog through some very difficult times,” Bret tells me. “Producers are a resilient bunch, and Texas producers even more so, which makes me think ‘Remember the Produce Aisle!’ We will continue to persevere and find ways to succeed in the face of adversity.”
Despite all the setbacks Little Bear is currently facing, the grower is reporting good quality for its crops. That Texan strength shines through the grower, and its durability and adaptability are what I feel are exemplary of our industry.
“It has definitely been a challenging season in South Texas. For Texas producers, the historic Valentine’s Day freeze of 2021 still feels like a fresh wound. That freeze knocked us down for six weeks or more, which made for a tough climb back,” recounts Bret. “We had another freeze this year on January 3. Although it was not a multi-day hard freeze like last year, it was cold enough to set us back.”
That freeze followed an exceptionally warm November and December for the Texan grower. So when that sudden freeze came about at the beginning of the year, on top of more challenging weather conditions, Little Bear’s crops weren’t prepared.
“When that first serious cold snap blew in, it hit the plants hard—they weren’t acclimated to colder weather yet,” continues Bret. “We’ve also had some cold rainy spells, which just generally slowed us down.”
Similar to the rest of the growers in our industry, the supplier was hit hard by inflationary pressures, transportation challenges, and supply chain impacts this past year. Another major issue Little Bear is concerned about is labor.
“Labor continues to be a pressing issue for us. We can’t lose sight of the ag labor issue as we are bombarded with all these other headlines,” Bret elaborates. “I am hoping for Congress to pass some sort of meaningful ag labor legislation, because we are in need of help, and we have been for decades.”
Much like the Ithacan King Odysseus, I suspect that the grower will pull through, as will our industry. It might take longer than we hoped for, but I believe the goal of normalcy is on the horizon.