Demand for locally grown supports expansion

05/17/2013 02:37:00 PM
Jim Offner

The wholesale distributor also operates a 50-acre farm in Dartmouth, Mass., and a 10,000-square-foot greenhouse in New Bedford, Mass., in hopes of expanding the roster of locally grown fruits and vegetables available to local residents.

“For us, it’s the need and desire of customers to continuously promote more locally grown foods,” said Victor Simas, vice president of sales for the New Bedford-based company.

The growing operations are considered more research-and-development facilities than commercial enterprises, Simas said.

“We grow over 300 products to experiment with new crops and do research and development and learn how to grow certain crops here,” Simas said.

Once the company perfects growing an item, it tries to work with area growers to bring that item to market on a larger scale, Simas said.

“It’s a trend that’s been happening the last few years and is continuing to grow,” he said of the locally grown movement.

Sid Wainer & Son is part of an effort to turn more than 2,000 acres along Massachusetts’ southern coast into fruit and vegetable production, Simas said.

“A lot of land here has been turned into silage corn and hay, and we’re putting that into row crops. We’re reversing that,” he said.

Local growers are receptive to the idea of raising more locally grown produce, Simas said.

“I used to be in purchasing, and I’d meet with local farmers and found out what worked and didn’t and was always prodding them to grow other things bringing in things from other parts of the world,” he said. “They always came back saying, ‘If you can show me how to do it, maybe I will.’”

The goal is not to overproduce familiar summer items, Simas said.

“Rather than having summer squash and zucchini, we’re getting them to grow herbs and specialties,” he said.

The concept is workable in New England, which has a voracious appetite for locally grown produce, Simas said.

“For us, everything that is New England is local, which makes some sense, since it’s a lot of smaller states,” he said. This is why we got into greenhouse production. We saw the need for something on a year-round basis. We operate our greenhouses year-round to offer customers something local 12 months.”

Greenhouse production focuses on herbs, flowers and microgreens, Simas said.
“Once we perfect something, we give it to somebody else,” he said.



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