Regional apples find loyal consumers

10/14/2011 11:07:00 AM
Chris Koger

Either way, there are lots of apples to move in the region, Allen said, noting New York’s estimated 30 million bushels. In addition, Pennsylvania expects to ship around 10 million and Virginia, 6 million bushels, according to officials in those states.

The availability of locally grown apples is good for the sellers and the buyers, said Tim Mansfield, sales and marketing director with Burt, N.Y.-based Sun Orchard Fruit Co.

“I think overall it’s a good thing because it gets more people involved in eating fresh product and along with the USDA’s plate-simplified recommendation for food, I think that’s certainly helped for fresh fruit and produce, because it’s over 50% of what’s recommended,” he said.

“As far as what we do, the local thing, when you look at the overall volume, it’s a small percentage, so it’s not really taking away from what we do. It’s kind of a seasonal thing.”

The Eastern apple deal remains seasonal, but growers and shippers make the most of their time in the market, Mansfield said.

“People aren’t going to be eating local stuff in the Northeast after summer and early fall,” he said.

“The overall effect is beneficial, because it’s raising awareness.”

One definition of “local” is to convey a sense of context to the grower and their products, some in the industry have said. Rice Fruit Co., based in Gardners, Pa., works to do just that, said John Rice, the grower-shipper’s president.

“We have a fairly good program going with our Pennsylvania retailers and Maryland,” he said.

“And they promote the local, often with our name on it. It seems to strike a receptive chord among consumers who are interested in buying fruit that doesn’t come from across the country. It’s kind of a movement to get to know the grower. A lot of times, there are signs identifying the sources and in some cases, they put up a poster with picture on it.”

Eastern apple growers and shippers have plenty of potential customers, said Jack Bream, owner of Bream Orchards, Orrtanna, Pa.

“We’re within 200 miles of how many million consumers? That is our local market,” he said.

“The local chains support the local fruit. It’s great that they’re there.”

That support should continue to pick up momentum, said Jamie Williams, president of Turkey Knob Apples Inc., Timberville, Va., which is the marketing arm of Bowman Fruit Sales LLC.



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