A mild spring has set the stage for a successful season at Satur Farms, a grower of gourmet lettuces, herbs and baby vegetables based in Cutchogue, NY, on the bucolic North Fork of Long Island.
Paulette Satur, founder and CEO of Satur Farms, told The Produce News on June 6 that the season is off to a great start, albeit about two weeks late, with terrific yields and quality.
Spinach harvest kicked off May 6, mizuna and tat soi on May 9, and spring mix on May 23. “We’ve had ideal growing conditions for our baby greens and wild arugula, with warm days and cool temperatures at night, which really makes the colors pop on these items,” she said.
But the excitement of an outstanding crop is somewhat tempered by the reality of the toll that inflation has had on the business. “Input costs this year are so high, that we are being somewhat cautious about what we’re doing,” she said. “Acreage-wise, we’re staying at the same level, partially due to the lingering effects of COVID-19, but also because there has been a lot of talk about a possible recession.”
Satur said the higher costs have been “frustrating” for her and Eberhard Mueller, her husband and co-owner of the business. “Between July and the beginning of this year, we were hit with four price increases on clamshells. We are hesitant to pass along price increases to our customers, but eventually we were forced to raise them a little. But our customers understand and were willing to work with us.”
Satur added that even with a slight bump in prices, Satur Farms is still much less expensive that product coming from the West Coast and other areas due to the freight advantage.
“Aside from being less expensive, most of our customers like to support local product,” she said. “Our retail clients really like to promote local.” Satur said she is now just starting seasonal baby lettuce heads, and frisee was a week to 10 days away from the start of harvest.
“We really enjoy offering these early, delicate products that can’t grow in the heat of August, because it emphasizes the rhythm of the seasons,” said Satur. “The weather has become more extreme in recent years, so it is tough to grow everything we used to grow.”
Even with the challenges, Satur said she expects business to remain steady this season. “We have a couple of new retail accounts, and we are keeping everything quite consistent, which is how we like it,” she said.
Satur Farms also has been working with the New York Department of Agriculture on its Nourish New York program, which provides state-grown fruits and vegetables to food banks and schools to benefit the less fortunate.
“It’s a nice program,” she said. “We did it last year and it was a great option for our overflow product. Whether it’s to a charity or a school, it’s nice to know that we are providing fresh, nutritious and local product to those in need. And it’s nice that we can help with our early crops while schools are still in session.”
Satur Farms traditionally is a big supplier to what Satur calls her “salad bar restaurants” in New York City that attract sizable lunch crowds. But she said that segment of her business is still slow to recover from the pandemic.
“People are still not back in their offices full-time, so that has not come back to where it was for us,” she said. “But we were able to adjust and now our retail business is well over 50 percent of what we do. But everything is cyclical, so it will come back and when it does we will be ready.”