PAW PAW, Mich. — Michigan grower-shippers continue to benefit from surging demand for locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Asparagus has benefited more than other Michigan crops from the locally grown movement, said Tim Spiech, co-owner of Spiech Farms.
“There’s been a big push — it’s been one of the things that’s really helped jump-start asparagus in Michigan,” Spiech said. “All of the Midwestern chains fully support it.”
Whereas a few years ago processed asparagus accounted for about 90% of all asparagus shipped in the state, in 2014 the breakdown could be closer to 50/50, Spiech said.
Much of that can be traced to demand for local, he said. Because hand-snapped Michigan asparagus is different from asparagus grown in other regions, retailers have an easier time differentiating it in their local promotions.
Photographs of E. Miedema & Sons adorn the produce departments of Meijer and Spartan stores in Michigan, where the Byron Center-based company’s vegetables are sold, said company co-owner Dave Miedema.
“The local chains have been very good about supporting local growers,” he said.
In early May, Miedema got a text from a friend who had seen a Miedema ad in a grocery store in another Michigan city.
Miedema wasn’t even aware that the store was using it. Later he found out Spartan had supplied the store with the signs.
“Sustainability” has been another buzzword companies like Wal-Mart have added to “local,” Miedema said.
Wal-Mart officials have been in the Byron Center area, talking to growers about their sustainability initiatives, Miedema said.
He’s glad to see the attention, but sustainability is hardly a new concept to Miedema & Sons and other Michigan growers.
“We’ve always promoted sustainability,” he said.
Last summer, Miedema & Sons bought another 140 acres of land. Keeping area farmland as farmland, instead of letting development take it, is one way of being sustainable.
“Whenever land is available at a fair price, we try to acquire it,” he said. “We’re pushed by housing.”
While the pace of development is not extreme, one area farm has been lost to development this spring and another sale is pending, Miedema said.
Todd Miedema, marketing director and principal with Miedema Produce Inc., Hudsonville, also reported a continuing influence on locally grown.
“Over the past year it’s really helped growers,” he said. “We’ve focused hard on local programs. The closer to home it is, the closer to the peak of maturity, the more flavor.”
If retailers want photos of Miedema Produce grower partners to put in their departments for local promotions, Miedema Produce will supply them, Miedema said.
Todd Van Solkema, chief executive officer of Byron Center, Mich.-based Van Solkema Produce, agreed that Michigan shippers continue to benefit from local.
“Homegrown is a growing trend,” he said. “Consumers want to directly link themselves with growers.”
More ads featuring growers are popping up, and photos of more growers are appearing in Michigan grocery stores, Van Solkema said.