Panel discussion to focus on locally grown produce movement

08/03/2012 01:37:00 PM
Kayla Banzet

A panel of produce suppliers with expertise in locally grown fruits and vegetables will lead the “Feeding the Locavore” session at The Packer’s Midwest Produce Conference & Expo on Aug. 14.

The Midwest Produce Conference will include multiple sessions during its Aug. 13-15 period.

The local panel will start at 9:45 a.m. on Aug. 14 and those involved with the panel will discuss the growing local food movement in the Midwest.

A locavore is one who is interested in eating food that is locally produced and not shipped or moved from long distance to a different market.

In a 2012 Packer Fresh Trends survey, many consumers had different reasons why they chose local.

Consumers said that it saved them money, the flavor tastes better when it’s local, they feel it’s healthier and they enjoy supporting local producers, according to the survey.

Pamela Riemenschneider, Produce Retailer magazine editor and retail editor of The Packer, will attend the conference and will mediate another panel on consumer trends.

She says the local food movement is growing rapidly and eating local is becoming more and more popular.

“Local is always popular in the Midwest, as consumers flock to tomatoes, sweet corn and other favorites during the summer,” she said.

The timing for the discussion on locally grown produce at the Midwest show is perfect since summer is the time when most Midwestern growers are bringing their products to market — not only to grocery stores in their area, but also to farmers markets and the like.

From Wisconsin potatoes to Michigan apples to Colorado melons, participants will have plenty to discuss.

Michigan growers, in particular, credit the locally grown movement for much of their recent success.

Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC, for instance, capitalizes on its locally grown Michigan blueberry program.

“We’re really dialed in to locally grown for Michigan,” said Brian Bocock, vice president of product management in Naturipe’s Grand Junction, Mich., office. “We spend quite a bit of time working with our retailers (on local programs).”

Naturipe packs featuring Michigan blueberries this year will include the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s “Pure Michigan” slogan, denoting the state’s locally grown initiative, Bocock said.

Michigan asparagus ships nationwide, but increasing demand for locally grown product keeps much of the asparagus shipped by Hart, Mich.-based Todd Greiner Farms in Michigan and neighboring states, sales manager Tyler Hodges said.


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