Local a big draw in Michigan - The Packer

Local a big draw in Michigan

06/07/2012 08:41:00 AM
Andy Nelson

HART, Mich. — Michigan grower-shippers continue to benefit from demand for locally grown produce.

Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC is a major, year-round shipper of blueberries and other berries. But that doesn’t keep it from capitalizing 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 will include the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s “Pure Michigan” slogan, denoting the state’s locally grown initiative, Bocock said.

Asparagus also popular

Michigan asparagus ships as far east as New York and Philadelphia and as far southwest as Kansas City, but increasing demand for locally grown product keeps most of the asparagus shipped by Hart-based Todd Greiner Farms in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, sales manager Tyler Hodges said.

“It’s the first vegetable (of the season) that’s available locally, and the retailers we have always stress the importance of it,” Hodges said. “And they do a great job of promoting it throughout the season.”

Even in a year like 2012, when demand has been intense due to weather-related problems in California and Washington, growers such as Greiner Farms likely will keep most shipments fairly close to home, Hodges said.

“We might see it (the company’s distribution net) a little wider, but it’s hard to do because there’s so much demand close by.”

John Bakker, executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, DeWitt, also reports stronger demand for locally grown asparagus.

In 2012, strong local demand is keeping California asparagus in California, Bakker said, and the same is true for the Wolverine State.

Fortunately for Michigan growers, “local” includes large population centers such as Chicago, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio.

“We’re a six-hour drive from a lot of population,” he said.

Still, about 40% of Michigan asparagus stays in Michigan, according to an informal poll Bakker took of the state’s growers.



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