John Baldiviez remembers when biting into peaches fresh off grocers’ shelves was a crunchy affair in Alaska."Tree-ripened peaches were unheard of. They ate like an apple," said Baldiviez, who has been in the produce business in Alaska for more than 20 years."Now you have to use a napkin because the juice gets all over the place," said Baldiviez, who along with his wife, Ginny, own Alaska Carrot Co., a produce wholesaler in Anchorage.Not only have the quality and variety of fruit and vegetables changed in the last two decades in Alaska, advances in produce handling and shipping methods have changed, too.Most major cities in Alaska, and even some Bush communities like Bethel, have produce that is every bit as fresh as what is found on the East Coast, wholesalers and shippers said.By various estimates, a third or more of produce shipped to Anchorage now comes over the Alaska Highway by truck, a mode of transportation that in the last 10 years has taken a big bite out of waterborne produce shipments.Nearly all produce shipments to Fairbanks and to the North Slope come over-the-road directly from the Pacific Northwest, produce wholesalers said."They’ve taken part of our market, and we’re not pleased with it," said Eric Britten, CSX Lines’ manager of business planning and development.CSX and Totem Ocean Trailer Express Inc. have for years brought produce up from the Port of Tacoma on their ships, a voyage that takes about 66 hours to Anchorage.Improvements on the Alaska Highway, as well as more efficient trucks, make the more than 2,000-mile trip from Seattle to Anchorage a 55-hour drive.Produce wholesalers say each shipping method has its advantages. Waterborne shipments are generally cheaper, while trucking is speedier and more frequent.TOTE and CSX combined send five container ships weekly to Anchorage, but none arrive within a day of the weekend market, where the bulk of produce is purchased by restaurants and consumers.CSX’s Britten said there isn’t enough produce to warrant another ship for the weekend market. Britten’s company has taken measures over the years to improve produce shipments, like better climate-controlled containers.Bill Deaver, vice president and general manager of TOTE’s Alaska division, said he believes that trucking accounts for about a third of produce shipped to Alaska.Deaver said he believes that’s about as big a share as truckers will get."I think they are pretty much where they’re gong to be," Deaver said.CSX and TOTE have their own trucking divisions, but most trucks used in hauling produce to Alaska are operated by independents, who work through brokers in Seattle, produce wholesalers said.Frank Dillon, executive vice president of the Alaska Trucking Association Inc., said it all comes down to what method of shipping works best for a particular company."Free enterprise and competition determines how things are going to move," Dillon said.Deaver of TOTE points out that some major grocers in Alaska still transport all of their produce by ship.Other grocers and wholesalers use a combination of trucks and ships, while the warehouse membership clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club use trucks almost exclusively.Air shipments are used by grocers and wholesalers for extremely perishable items like herbs and some berries."The bottom line, (trucking) is faster," said Dick Snyder, manager of the Costco in South Anchorage.Trucking, Snyder said, gives his company more control over its produce. The company uses waterborne shippers for the bulk of its products, but for produce, trucking works best, Snyder said.For example, he said, watermelons are shipped directly from farms in California to his store in South Anchorage, a trip that takes just more than three days. For the watermelons to be trucked to Tacoma, put on a ship and sent to Anchorage would at least double that time. And the melons would have to be handled several more times in the process."We think it makes a difference in quality," Snyder said.Costco has trucks arriving at its Anchorage stores five days a week, Snyder said.Dave Schauer, manager of Anchorage produce wholesaler Rogge Commission, said that his company sends about 95 percent of its produce by truck from Seattle.For more durable produce like apples, potatoes and onions, ships are used by his company, which is a division of Charlie’s Produce Co. of Seattle.Trucking, Schauer said, gives his company "hands-on control."Rick Thomas, customer service manager of DiTomaso Inc. of Anchorage, said his company uses a "blend" of shipping methods to get its produce up from the Lower 48 states.Under the best case scenario, Thomas said, produce arrives in Alaska from the growing fields of California, Arizona or Mexico in seven or eight days, either by truck or ship."Ten to 12 days is more realistic," Thomas said.That time is within a day of when produce shipped from the same source reaches the East Coast, Thomas said.