Tom Lively, senior account representative for Organically Grown Co., Eugene, Ore., said the company pushed the concept of regional organics. With a huge growing area in the Pacific Northwest, the company is more comfortable talking about regional organic produce.
“The reality is that you have to define local in a micro way,” he said.
While there is competition for local fruits and vegetables, Dempster said the Farmer’s Own program is assured supply making investments in local organic growers’ operations. Charlie’s Produce markets the program locally and nationwide.
“They pack in our label and we do the marketing for them,” Dempster said.
The company is no Johnny-come-lately to local produce, said Brian Namatame, director of procurement for Charlie’s Produce Seattle.
The company, the largest independent wholesaler on the West Coast, has facilities in Portland, Spokane, Seattle, Anchorage, Alaska, and Dutch Harbor, Alaska.
Local produce is one of the last remaining ways that independent retailers can differentiate themselves from chain stores, Janker said.
Dempster said one the goals of the Farmer’s Own program is linking individual growers to specific retailers. The company creates grower profiles so retailers and consumers can know the name of the suppliers.
Despite the resurgence of demand, local growers are being crowded out by development and tax burden, Namatame said. The company can offer those growers a stable market.
“What we found in the last couple of years, the organic consumer kept shopping,” Dempster said. “Stores that order a full line of organics are doing very well.”