Dave’s Specialty Imports' Leslie Simmons Discusses Extended Strawberry Season out of Florida
MIAMI, FL - As the state's strawberry season winds down, I spoke with Leslie Simmons, Vice President of Dave’s Specialty Imports, to see how the Central Florida crop, on which the grower began cultivation only last year, is coming along.
“Farming in Central Florida this season has given us an opportunity to provide an excellent product to our customers who are looking for high-quality ‘Fresh from Florida’ strawberries. The fruit is beautiful, and it has helped us round out to our berry line-up. It is something we are very proud to put my grandfather’s name on,” Leslie explained.
Leslie reported that the crop quality has been excellent and that, to help preserve that quality, the team has been focused on getting the berries cooled as quickly as possible. High temperatures in late-February caused the overall volume to increase but that weather also created an opportunity for quality issues.
“Strawberries are sensitive and getting the berries to the cooler as quickly as possible helps us to extend the shelf-life," Leslie said. "As our VP of New Business, Vince Ferrante, always reminds us 'For every hour the fruit isn’t cooled after being picked, we lose one day from its shelf-life.'”
With that focus, the company has been able to keep the berries cool and maintain what Leslie says is an above-average quality.
“This was a smaller program to start but we knew we would have to offer something special in order to stay in the mix with the competition and we were really able to do that," Leslie stated.
With its first season wrapping up, Dave’s Specialty Imports expects to keep going for a few more weeks. Having planted later than other local strawberry growers, Leslie tells me that one of the things that sets the company's berry operation apart is that it will be able to keep growing a little past the regular season.
"We are very lucky to still have solid fruit for our costumers while Mexico production is slowing down and California is battling weather issues," said Leslie.
Once the Florida strawberries begin to peter out, consumers can look forward to the return of Dave’s Florida blueberry program starting at the end of March. The grower will continue to look at all growing regions and opportunities that can help it meet the demands of our customers across all of the berry categories.
We will cherish the last of Dave’s Florida strawberries for now, available in 1- and 2-pound clamshells and as Stem Berries, and look forward to the next tasty treat they bring to market. I hope you’ll stay with us for more market updates at AndNowUKnow.