The locally grown phenomenon has benefited the greenhouse vegetable industry, shippers say.
Doug Kling, chief sales and marketing officer for Eatontown, N.J.-based Village Farms LP, expects locally grown to be a bigger force in the greenhouse vegetable business this year.
This season Kling expects a broader mix of tomatoes, for instance, that could rely more on locally grown product, regardless of variety, rather than tomatoes on the vine.
“I think we’ll see a broader mix that could be more local, with less reliance on a particular variety,” he said. “It gives the retailers the advantage of offering something that’s more fresh.”
That’s more likely to stick around in good shape on retail and consumer shelves, too.
“Most chains see local as one- or two-day delivery, so there’s less shrink,” he said. “It gives us a very diverse arrangement with the chains we contract with.”
Retailers also like the food safety benefits of local, he said.
“It helps ensure a safer product.”
Tim Cunniff, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Madison, Maine-based Backyard Farms LLC, said his company was founded on the premise that local is better.
The company grows greenhouse tomatoes on 42 acres and focuses on the Northeast in its distribution.
Backyard Farms also is proud to point out that its labor force consists of Maine residents.
It’s good for consumers, and it’s good for Backyard Farms, which can keep a close ear to the ground for trends, Cunniff said.
Take beefsteak tomatoes, for example. The company saw that its localized customer base wanted more of them, so this year and last Backyard Farms has met their needs, he said.
“We have a very concentrated marketplace,” Cunniff said. “We really work hard to meet their needs and to meet the trends of the marketplace.”
As to whether the recent boom in “local” nationwide and worldwide has been good for Backyard Farms, Cunniff doesn’t hesitate.
“Absolutely. It’s nice when your business model is a mega-trend.”
It makes for easy marketing, too.
“It’s not like you have to do a lot of creative marketing to take pictures of your employees working in your greenhouse,” Cunniff said. “Our model is pretty pure.”