Blessed be the homegrown ties - The Packer

Blessed be the homegrown ties

04/30/2002 12:00:00 AM
Jody Shee

(April 30) It’s part of your professional fiber. With summer comes local produce promotions. Bring on the wooden crates and tables with signs telling who grows the tomatoes, cantaloupe and corn.

Times have changed since the genesis of this retail tradition. Consumers increasingly are in tune with natural foods, sustainable local agriculture and food safety. Meanwhile, more state departments of agriculture are developing programs to help connect growers, consumers and retailers. Use this synergism to bring a fresh atmosphere to your homegrown promotions.

PROVIDE A NEIGHBORLY SETTING

Gardner’s Markets, Miami, builds community in the parking lot. It operates a farmers market each Sunday during the South Florida growing season to create weekly excitement and let customers interact with growers, says produce manager Debi Kendrick. The company operates five stores, but only one has a canopy and 22 stalls underneath from which growers peddle their tomatoes, lettuce, tropical fruit, squash and other produce January through April.

Parking lot activities for the kids make the shopping trip a family event, Kendrick says. The store rents the stalls for $20 per week to growers and uses the income to hire face painters, clowns, magicians and other performers.

As the farmers market closes on Sunday afternoon, Kendrick wanders around the stalls and buys produce from the growers to sell inside the store throughout the week.

The store merchandises the product on crate displays inside the front door and includes the growers’ names.

Shoppers’ weekly interaction with the growers in the parking lot helps build a connection to the produce inside. Additionally, each Monday and Thursday night a cooking demonstrator creates a recipe, often using the produce from the growers.

Supporting local growers when many are finding it hard to survive is a big focus for Clemens Markets Inc., Kulpsville, Pa., says director of produce Dave Blaich.

The 19 stores work closely with area growers to sell and promote their products. While large, corporate-driven retailers might find that difficult to do, he believes building relationships within the community helps give back to the community and is an important part of doing business.

INVEST IN GROWERS

If an area grower calls Blaich with a load of produce, he finds out more about it and adds the growers’ name to an authorization list. This allows the grower to contact the stores individually and allows the stores to call the grower to order product. The grower has to be able to deliver product directly to each store, though.


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