The five growers Charlie Brown’s is working with were chosen mainly for the volume and variety of products they could supply, although sustainability efforts were also involved, Butler said. They are some of the larger growing operations in the region.
“There has been some education involved,” said Dan Bhada, sales director, national accounts for J. Kings. “They wanted to use local grape tomatoes the whole summer, but they didn’t realize they weren’t available locally until July.”
All four produce distributors Charlie Brown’s is using are member of the Pro*Act produce distribution network, so they had existing relationships with each other and with New Jersey growers, Bhada said.
J. Kings says it uses a food safety program developed specifically for small growers, which incorporates the criteria from other food safety regulations, including Good Agricultural Practices and the California Leafy Green Handlers Marketing Agreement, and adjusted the requirements for smaller operations.
J. Kings also backhauls produce from local farms to alleviate issues caused by growers not having proper refrigeration units or transportation.