• Last modified 782 days ago (June 25, 2020)


Fresh produce
in high demand

Staff writer

Copious rain followed by heat and wind haven’t damaged Jirak Brothers Produce operations in Tampa.

Crops appear to be among the best in years, Ron Jirak said.

“Overall the plants are looking really good — better than they ever have,” he said. “But the story’s not written until the harvest.”

Heat has been a bigger deal than heavy rain, Jirak said, because he irrigates.

Weather during May tends to set the tone for the season.

This year’s weather is different from last year, when weather extremes cut profits.

“If someone had told me last year I was going to take a $30,000 loss I would have got out,” he said. “But we did pretty well.”

He expects this year’s COVID-19 outbreak to be good for his business because people are more interested in locally grown produce.

He thinks people feel better this year buying produce from farmers markets because they are out in the open air, not inside an enclosed space.

“This COVID-19 caused a lot of anxiety,” he said. “I’m trying to keep myself out of it because I can’t afford to get down.”

Fresh produce and home gardening are more popular.

“I’m glad to see them,” he said. “I think the interest in homegrown is going to help my business.”

The virus did cause shortages of seed, however.

He sells produce directly to customers in Marion, Salina, Emporia, and Newton and sells a considerable amount of produce wholesale to local stores.

“In fall I market my pumpkins in and around the Kansas City area,” Jirak said.

He is growing a new variety of corn this year.

“I’m always looking for new varieties,” he said. “It’s a lot about having faith in what you’re doing. A lot of things are out of your control.”

He compares what he does to being “just like an old doctor.”

“I’ve got to have lots of patience,” he said.

Additional considerations this year are such things as whether vendors or customers should wear masks.

“I’m not worried about getting it,” Jirak said. “When you get in enclosed areas, that’s where it’s been.”

Produce probably will cost more because the virus has affected prices producers pay, he said.

“Basically, all my capital is out there subject to the weather,” he said.

Last modified June 25, 2020