Bustling Cauliflower Market

Footnotes to Long Island History


NOV. 10,1949


Thomas R. Bayles

       An enormous cauliflower crop is being raised and harvested in Suffolk county this fall and is being sold at demoralized prices from 60 cents to 1.10 a crate at the auction blocks at Riverhead and Southold. These prices leave no profit to the farmers as the crates cost about 40 cents each, and the crop requires a lot of labor, tieing up the heads, and then cutting and packing the flower. A tremendous crop is being produced this fall due to increased acreage and ideal growing conditions.

       Most of the crop is sold at the auction blocks operated by the Long Island Cauliflower association at Riverhead and Southold and from 20,000 to 30,000 crates a day have been going through these auctions lately. The block at Riverhead is a scene of feverish activity every day as farmers' trucks assemble and wait in line. On many days, more than 20 trucks are in the line. The auction begins at 1 P.M. and the buyers assemble under the shed and the sale commences.

       Each load is sold to the highest bidder as it passes through, and is then taken to the railroad yards at Riverhead, if bought by a carlot buyer, and loaded into refrigerator cars. Crushed ice is then blown into the car, covering the crates and protecting the cargo en route.

       Many buyers attend this auction and make their headquarters in Riverhead during the shipping season. Some of them are independent buyers and others are representatives of large wholesale houses in the markets of New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore ,Washington ,Pittsburgh and other cities within the trucking range. There are also some who buy for shipment to more distant markets by refrigerator cars. These are as far away as New Orleans, Florida, Chicago, St Louis, and other cities through the mid west. The flower is not shipped beyond these points as it has to meet competition with Colorado and California grown stock, and shipping cost are too high.

       The scene at the block as the sale progresses seems like utter confusion to a stranger with 50 or more buyers' trucks waiting to be loaded and the farmers' trucks going in all directions for unloading. The buyers are all in a hurry to get loaded and get away as most of them have a long trip to make to market and they must be in their market by 2 a.m. the following morning in order to make the morning opening. Many of them are now using trucks with mechanical cooling systems to protect their loads.

       The Cauliflower Growers association was organized at Riverhead in March 1901, with the following officers: President, Charles H. Aldrich of Mattituck; vice president, Henry R. Talmage of Baiting Hollow; secretary James Williamson of Laurel and treasurer Henry Kaelin of Cutchogue. Over 1,000 shares of stock were subscribed to by the farmers at $5 a share and only farmers could purchase it. Through the years this association has been very successful and has handled the sale of a large part of the cauliflower grown in Suffolk county, which is the headquarters for the growing of this specialized crop in the east. They also sell crates, baskets and supplies to the farmers.

       Cauliflower is a specialized crop and requires expert care and handling from time the plants are set in the field right through the season until it is cut and packed for shipment. Most of the acreage is now raised under irrigation, and on the larger fields, aeroplanes are used against the various diseases which attack them. Usually the crop is a profitable one for the growers, but this year prices have reached a very low level after starting off well.

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2021 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.