Consumers’ desire for local produce can mean more money for smaller suppliers, but buyers’ increasing requests for proof of food safety and traceability deter some growers who assume programs are complicated and expensive.
That assumption isn’t necessarily true, said John Bailey, executive director of Top 10 Produce, Salinas, Calif., adding that rebuilding a reputation or a brand can be even more expensive.
This year’s cantaloupe and watermelon recalls by Chamberlain Farms, Owensville, Ind., illustrate Bailey’s point.
“We have a member who used to be named Chamberlain Farms,” Bailey said.
“He doesn’t grow cantaloupe, but just imagine if he did and was still operating under the name Chamberlain Farms.”
Courtesy Fresh Roots LLCDavid Gattis, president of Fresh Roots LLC, checks PTI compliance for the Fresh Roots brand product.Bailey said Top 10 Produce can help growers achieve traceability compliance, protecting brand names and business reputations while allowing for faster recalls in the event of an outbreak or positive pathogen test.
Membership in Top 10 provides growers GS1 item-specific databar labeling for $280 annually.
Top 10 also audits members’ use of traceability labeling to certify compliance for buyers. Bailey compared the services to those provided to franchisees.
Members may participate in the Growers Reserve traceability services and the Locale ID program, which includes GTIN assignment. Members also receive label design services to ensure compliance with the Produce Traceability Initiative.
In addition to providing certified traceability to small growers, Top 10 Produce can help them develop their customer base by providing forward tracing through the supply chain.
“Recently one of our members who is a California peach grower found out their peaches were being sold on the East Coast,” Bailey said.
“The distributor who bought the peaches knew where they went, but the grower didn’t. Growers can make better decisions if they know where their produce is going.”
USDA grant for QR program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded Top 10 Produce a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research grant in August.
Bailey said the grant will help pay for research into the use of quick-response codes to provide mobile commerce services to independent growers.
“The objective of our research is to use our Grower’s Reserve mobile system to provide our technology partners with grower-direct, real-time, location-specific pricing for local produce and meat sold by our independent member-growers,” Bailey said.