“Local” is a buzz word with food retailers and consumers. “Local produce” is even buzzier.
A Northeastern retailer has a simple way of keeping local produce in the minds of its shoppers: It puts pictures of its local produce farmers in stores, on weekly advertisements, even on billboards.
Weis Markets Inc., Sunbury, Pa., launched a campaign, called Your Neighbors, Our Farmers, that features 13 of its local produce farmers, some being 40-year suppliers of the company.
“We were local before local was cool,” Weis spokesman Dennis Curtain said. “It’s the hot trend in food, but we’ve been doing it for 99 years.”
Its website has the 13 black-and-white posters that are being used in stores, and on ads and billboards.
New York onion farmer Ed Sobiech’s poster has the words “cry baby” in large, bold print, next to a paragraph about him and his family. The poster featuring Pennsylvania corn farmer John Tebbs says “I’m all ears.”
Curtin discusses the life stories of many of the featured farmers. He mentions Titus Hoover Jr., a Pennsylvania cucumber and tomato grower.
“Before Titus, we did business with his father, Titus Sr.,” he said. “Another farmer is Paul Lebo in Mechanicsburgh, Pa., and we were literally one of his first customers when he started his farm in 1967. We have long-term relationships with some of the best farmers around. We’re trying to tell that story.”
Produce across the board is represented, with farmers of corn, onions, melons, fruit, mushrooms, even organic produce.
Weis is placing the posters in every store by region and product, and a group shot of all the farmers is displayed in every store.
Weis plans to purchase more than 24 million pounds of local produce in 2011 from about 150 farmers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. It has 163 stores in those states and West Virginia. It purchases produce from more than 100 farms in northeast and central Pennsylvania, its home state.