Ron Stewart, president and owner of Detroit-based Simon & Leeman Corp., agreed.
He said his company produces biographies and picture boards of the local growers it works with for customers.
“Restaurants put them in lobbies and say, ‘We’re featuring this farmer’s apples,’ — or whatever it is,” he said. “It’s a huge selling point. Hotels and white tablecloth restaurants are using them, too.”
“We’re seeing demand across the board, even some of the chain restaurants are promoting the fact that they’re using local products.”
Slow times for distributors
Local product is not as popular with some of the state’s produce distributors because much of the local product is sold directly by growers to retailers or foodservice companies.
“Most of our customers are close by, so when local stuff is in season they don’t need us,” said Steve Davis, president, S.B. Davis Co., Grand Rapids. “That makes August and September slow for us.”
Brandon Serra, salesman for Detroit Produce Terminal distributor Serra Bros. Inc., offered a more blunt opinion about the local deal.
“We can’t wait for the first frost,” he said. “We carry some local, but for the most part local growers surpass us and go right to the stores. It hurts our business. As soon as the Michigan deal is over, we can start making a profit again.”
Dominic Russo, produce buyer and sales for Rocky Produce Inc., Detroit, said it is possible for terminal market distributors to play a part in the local deal.
“We handle a lot of Michigan produce,” he said. “It seems every year we handle more of it. Many of our customers do get it directly from the farmers, but we find we can move quite a bit of it. It’s a growing trend, and people want it. Whatever role we can play in the process, we want to be involved.”
Salesman Michael Badalament of Detroit-based R.A.M. Produce Distributors, said the state has done a good job of promoting local product in the past.
“People want to support the local economy,” he said, “and the growers do a great job.”