With easy access to the East Coast’s growing regions, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., distributors enjoy a thriving business selling local produce.
Distributors say they have always promoted local product and report strong customer interest in buying local and regional produce.
Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc.Cartons of peaches at Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc., Jessup, Md. Distributors report strong demand for local produce.The distributors draw from Delaware, Maryland and Virginia growers, the region’s Eastern Shore and other nearby states including Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.
Distributors say the summer remained challenging for procurement of local product.
“There have been a lot of issues this year with the weather,” said Gus Pappas, president of Pete Pappas & Sons Inc., Washington, D.C.
“Growers had a lot of rain and heat. There was a lot of damage done by the inches and inches of rain that inundated growers and it really shortened the growing seasons in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.”
Local demand remains strong, Pappas said.
T.J. Rahll, operations manager of Edward G. Rahll & Sons Inc., Jessup, Md., echoed the season’s weather problems.
He said the weather harmed the product quality distributors normally see.
Rahll said the distributor works closely with some of the larger local growers to ensure it ships quality and safe produce.
“We are constantly working with them to help them get their certifications,” he said.
“We’re doing our best to prepare them for the audits which are coming. It’s tough. Many of the smaller guys say they will be gone and won’t be growing anymore once the auditing requirements come. But many other don’t have that attitude and see that’s the way the future will be.”
Sal Cefalu, owner and director of CGC Holdings, the parent company of Jessup-based G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc. and Capital Seaboard, said the distributor works closely with its local growers.
“Everyone says buy local and we agree with it,” Cefalu said.
“But as a reputable company that’s trying to do things the right way, we have to make sure all the documentation is in place. A smaller farmer here is growing his product properly just as the national farms in Florida and California, but we have to get that documentation to hold up.
“As long as the farmer can provide the documentation to us and the support we need to follow through, we really try to support the local growers.”
Distributing local product remains a natural for Lancaster Foods Inc. in Jessup, which trucks produce to customers throughout the eastern U.S.