“When I first started, we had a handful of guys growing. Now we have guys who were growing tobacco and decided to diversify,” he said.
Grow Farms has 25 growers, he said.
Restaurants can market local produce effectively, as well, said Gwen Gulliksen, sales and marketing director for Harvest Sensations in Los Angeles, a specialty arm of foodservice distributor Pro*Act.
“Diners like to ‘know’ their farmer and local produce tastes better so it is becoming popular by default,” Gulliksen said. “Those who have always made the effort can tell you that it always has been popular. It is now just becoming ‘known’ with the growth of the ‘greening’ of America.”
The best way to get involved with local programs is to start using it, even little by little, Gulliksen said.
“Even if you just use one or two items in one or two menu selections and/or specials, do what you can to get it into your menu,” she said. “The best chefs have it all over their menus and identify it on their menus by farm or farmer.”
Naturipe Farms, based in Naples, Fla., has a nationwide network of berry growers, giving the company “local” reach across the U.S.
“We have growers in something like 26 states, including the 14 major producing states,” said Robert Verloop, executive vice president of marketing.
“We work with retailers on a local basis to promote local production. We also see it as a larger, year-round opportunity for bringing in the wider scope of what consumers want. They want local when it’s available, but year-round availability is important, too.”