The Skagit Valley Food Co-op, Mount Vernon, Wash., offers some local produce — like sprouts and mushrooms — year-round.
More seasonal fare like spinach and radishes pop up in April, and the season runs into the fall with pumpkins in October. Storage crops, such as apples, last into July.
“We have people coming in here asking for local items before they’re even available,” said Heidi Hartford, a produce stocker at the coop. “Any time we can get local, we do. We carry as much local as possible.”
Hartford said the coop meets with local growers every fall to plan for the coming year. She said demand for local product continues to grow.
“I think it’s common sense,” she said. “We’re in an area where produce is accessible, and a lot of people want to do what’s best for themselves and eat well. When you factor in that it’s good for local farmers and the community, it all adds up. It’s a trend that’s not going out of style any time soon.”
Dean Cunningham, vice president of Washington Lettuce & Vegetable Co., Mount Vernon, said high diesel prices likely will continue to fuel the trend of buyers looking for local product.
“It’s just unbelievable,” he said. “Freight is a huge factor in our business.”
Sales manager Dale Hayton said Valley Pride Sales Inc., Mount Vernon, Wash., has good volumes of raspberries, blackberries, broccoli and cauliflower, but the vast majority of the products end up in the hands of buyers in the Pacific Northwest.
However, he said being local isn’t good enough.
“It’s not like just because it’s local it sells,” he said. “You still have to have the right product and the right quality. If you do that, they’re more than happy to purchase local.”
Cunningham said the majority of retailers in the region do a good job of promoting local product.
“They jump right in as soon as it’s available,” he said,” and we appreciate it like you wouldn’t believe.”